Does Taller Mean Smarter?

USAMO Winners 2007A new study is out. Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa blogged about his new discovery. He claims that he can explain why many studies show that men have higher intelligence than women. In his posting Why men are more intelligent than women he posits that intelligence is correlated with height. Taller men on average are smarter than shorter men.

He also claims that given the same height, women are more intelligent than men. As he puts it: “Women who are 5’10” are on average more intelligent than men who are 5’10”.” According to him the only problem women have in the brains department is that they aren’t tall enough.

I couldn’t find the study itself, only his own announcement. My problem with his study is that, according to Dr. Kanazawa’s description, he used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. If we are talking about adolescents we need to take into account that children grow taller and smarter with age. So any difference in intelligence among the kids of different heights may easily be explained by age. Taller boys may be older and therefore likely to perform better on intelligence tests.

As to intelligence differences between boys and girls of the same height, these girls who are 5’10” may be from higher grades than boys who are 5’10”.

Some IQ tests are designed to take age into account, but what’s totally weird is that a scientist is studying the correlation of intelligence and height, using a population that is in the middle of a physical and mental growth spurt.

As a mathematician, I’ve been around many people of great intelligence, but I’ve never perceived bright people as especially tall.

Here is the picture of the USAMO winners for 2007. These are certainly extremely smart kids and I know their heights. The sixth student on the left is my son, Sergei. I personally met all these kids and compared to their peers they are not — except for one boy — especially tall.



  1. Felipe Pait:

    Just met a group of my high school friends for dinner. I think we’re about the same height, which would makes us above 1.80m, except the mathematician, who is shorter. My conclusion: file Dr Kanazawa’s research under “if you torture a number, it will confess anything.”

  2. 5'4'' male:

    Finally! A good explanation… Now I understand why I am so stupid.

  3. veezbo:

    Hello, so I just found this blog and its very good!

    Hmm, my personal belief on the “males being smarter on average” thing is that it’s the result of SEXISM.

    We have too much lingering sexism that is built up from childhood. You are a very intelligent person Tanya, much more so than I, so I’m sure you can find specific examples for why this is so.

    But anyways, if as a child, you learn from the implications that you are not and cannot be better and must be a certain way, then you will most likely believe it (a very young child is still naive…but like prejudice, it’s built up and lingers)

  4. John:

    Veezbo. The fact of that matter is that you’re taking it out of context. The case is the average. Comparing the top of one to the bottom of the other is not a good comparison. “Oh, you’re smarter than that boy there, and that boy there.” That’s not how it works. While some females that I know are pretty dang smart, I know some that are extremely dumb.

    And on the Sexism topic. It might have something to do with assertiveness. People that are assertive usually get their way, and if they get their way, they think that they’re right.
    If they’re right more often, they seem tho think that they’re better.

    Cause and Effect.

  5. Jim:

    @John, however, the way the results are gained from the case is highly dubious. There is a reason why Kanazawa was dismissed from Psychology Today after all. Also, self-esteem doesn’t cause greater achievements. Rather, it is achievements that cause grater self-esteem. Ad Hoc Fallency.

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