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Bigger Brains Make Smarter People Study Says

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the hector-hammond-and-the-leader dept.

Biotech 426

udderly writes "People with bigger brains are smarter according to a Virginia Commonwealth University industrial and organizational psychologist, Michael A. McDaniel, Ph.D. McDaniel, who is a professor in management at VCU's School of Business. He reviewed 26 previous studies comparing brain size and intelligence and found that brain volume has a strong correlation to intelligence. According to McDaniel, 'for all age and sex groups, it is now very clear that brain volume and intelligence are related.' So, how big of a hat do you wear?"

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426 comments

mmm phrenology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850592)

Better snap up all those big-headed Ashkenazi, Accenture!

For once!! (1)

TDO48 (248810) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850593)

I guess now I can stop checking /. hourly!!

Re:For once!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850663)

hmm does this account for the thickness of your average err well person....or us president :D or the average special services cell phone payer? http://dream.n3rds.net/ [n3rds.net]

Drudge Report (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850595)

When did this place become the Drudge Report outlet mall? The last three stories have been on Drudge for a day.

Ok, I officially resign.

Airheads? (4, Funny)

6800 (643075) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850597)

They forgot to subtract the inclosed volumn of air!

Re:Airheads? (2, Funny)

game kid (805301) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850760)

I FEEL LIEK, SO0O OFENDED BAY THAT!!1 LOL! --hold on, so I have, liek, air in my bran? Is that liek chicken or fish? ...and, liek, wats this brane anywayz?

Einstein (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850598)

Einstein's cervical hemispheres were 15% larger than everyone else's due to all the maths he did. Now get working!

Re:Einstein (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850617)

yes but, he drank all the beer!

Slashdot = Drudgereport? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850599)

So uh, maybe we should just change the name of slashdot.org to drudgereport.com because these days the only stories that get run are ones that have been on drudge for days already.

Savants (4, Interesting)

headkase (533448) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850600)

If you thought as good about everything as a savant thought about one thing, I believe it would show that with proper organization a well wired smaller mass can be capable of greater predictions of the environment than a larger brain mass.
But considering that we all share the same assembly instructions, apples to apples maybe bigger is better.

Re:Savants (5, Insightful)

rpcxdr (796317) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850640)

It is more likely the number of folds [unimelb.edu.au] in the brain that predict intelligence, since folds imply a more complex wiring pattern.

This study would probably find a correlation between number of folds and brain size.

Folding (2, Interesting)

headkase (533448) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850772)

Whats neat is that the folding is a fractal structure which when unfolded has a very large surface area vs. it's actual size when folded. So I don't know about more folds implying a more complex wiring pattern, instead providing more neurons to be wired in some way.

Re:Savants (3, Insightful)

nkh (750837) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850706)

German scientists already knew that the bumps [wikipedia.org] on your head could demonstrate (with a very high accuracy ;) how smart you are. What we need now is something more "scientific" like: how our neurons act with one another or how wired the different parts of the brain can be...

Phrenology (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850798)

Phrenology [britishlibrary.net] is so pre-modern. The Germans we're also pursuing quantum zero-point energy during WWII because Relativity would never amount to anything. (e=mc^2 of course as expressed as a nuclear weapon)

Elephantitiasis (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850601)

elephantitiasis of the brain sufferers unite!

Size matters not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850603)

at least thats what they taught last time I was at the Jedi Academy on Dantooine.

Uh....this isn't new news (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850604)

Mister Spock noted that the Talosians were smarter because they had bigger brains during "The Cage".

WAYSA?

Skull Size != Brain Size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850606)

Skull Size != Brain Size. Just thought important to point out that before we all start getting the measuring tape to see how smart people are...

Re:Skull Size != Brain Size (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850643)

Having a large brain, but a small skull, carries certain disadvantages, however.

You hear about the acid head who quit going to his shrink?

He was afraid to have his head shrunk and his mind expanded at the same time.

KFG

Brain size vs Neuron density (5, Insightful)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850610)

I'd suggest that the study is probably right about the average larger brain providing its owner with a higher intelligence than the average average-sized brain.

However, neuron count in specific brain areas would seem to be more significant, and higher densities would provide more neurons/volume and therefore enable a smaller brain to outperform a larger one.

Using hat size to select job applicants, as the linked article suggests, is probably not a good idea.

Re:Brain size vs Neuron density (1)

deutschemonte (764566) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850674)

...higher [neuron] densities would...enable a smaller brain to outperform a larger one.

It used to be that we could air cool our brains. This kind of thinking is what has lead us to having to use liquid cooling.

You can't just keep packing in more transistors...err I mean neurons!

I think the only obvious fix here is to go to dual cores.

Re:Brain size vs Neuron density (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850714)

I think the only obvious fix here is to go to dual cores.

Zaphod Beeblebrox is way ahead of you. So I guess that proves you right.

Re:Brain size vs Neuron density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850717)

the brain is already dual core, but its not symmetric unfortunately. But bigger hat size equals more area for heat sinks, so maybe it could be overclocked as well.

Re:Brain size vs Neuron density (2, Interesting)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850797)

It's interesting you should mention dual cores - the human brain is effectively a collection of specialized brains working together as one machine.

The best example I can think of is vision, and the section of the brain that handles processing that is actually broken down further into motion detection, shape recognition, & color identification, and probably a couple of other items I've forgotten.

There's also hearing, language, emotion, memory, autonomic functions, touch, voluntary motor control... each with a dedicated 'processor'.

What is really interesting is that some minor damage can destroy these functions almost entirely, yet in some rare cases of massive damage, the remainder of the brain successfully picks up the slack - which indicates a certain amount of functional plasticity.

Re:Brain size vs Neuron density (5, Insightful)

Life2Short (593815) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850697)

The study was a meta-analysis of previous studies. Did you notice how small the sample sizes were for the original studies? About half had fewer than 50, it looked like. Not that that is a big problem, but how hard would it be to just go around to public schools and measure children's head size and gather their intelligence scores? Also, as always, causality cannot be inferred from correlation. No attempt was made to control for variables such as income, which might influence diet, health care, etc. Finally, if bigger heads really implied greater intelligence, wouldn't you expect offensive linemen on professional football teams to be some of the most intelligent people in the U.S.? For all I know, perhaps they are...

Re:Brain size vs Neuron density (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850722)

True. If brain size were the only factor, dolphins would be much smarter than us
(begin Hitchiker's jokes :)

Eggheads (2, Interesting)

glrotate (300695) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850789)

I was discussing this recent line of discussions about brain size and intelligence. From my recollection the Math department at my school had the highest concentrations of big headed people. There were several I had in my diff eq and analysis lectures that at first glance you would say were borderline hydrocephalic. Obviously they weren't, but they did have some big noggins.

So that's why... (1)

mwissel (869864) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850613)

..in Serious Sam and various other games, the developers included themselves as models with huge heads. How arrogant.

Einstein: The exception to the rule? (5, Informative)

WebHostingGuy (825421) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850616)

As several sites have suggested 1, [250x.com] 2, [bbc.co.uk] 3, [bioquant.com] Einstein's brain fell in the range of normal for all measurements, except for the portion known as the inferior parietal lobes, located in the middle of the brain. This middle portion was 15% wider and had no groove.

So maybe the correct conclusion is not that bigger is better, but only the sections that matter. Remember, its not the size of the wand, its the magic in it that counts.

Re:Einstein: The exception to the rule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850648)

Yes, using a single case to argue what should be true for billions is the best way to go isn't it?

Re:Einstein: The exception to the rule? (2, Insightful)

Titusdot Groan (468949) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850666)

No, it highlights the problem of using the results of this study to determine things like Princeton admissions ...

Maybe Einstein Really Wasn't All That Bright (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850657)

I know its heresy, but, think about it. Maybe he just more hacked away at his stuff until he got it to "work" than he was actually a genius.

Re:Maybe Einstein Really Wasn't All That Bright (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850672)

Either way I dont think being smart guarantee's success, riches or a good life IMHO, there are plenty of genius's that were pretty fucked up people. Also there were geniuses that preferred to live their lives quietly then use their abilities "for humanity" (Google William James Sidis for example).

Re:Einstein: The exception to the rule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850664)

Remember that the day you'll get a girlfriend.

Re: Einstein: The exception to the rule? (2, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850685)


> Einstein's brain fell in the range of normal for all measurements, except for the portion known as the inferior parietal lobes

His inferior lobes were superior?

Re:Einstein: The exception to the rule? (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850703)

Reminds me of something some said to me once
Freind:Dude a small precision tool is far better than a large blunt object
Me: Yes but nothing beats a large blunt object for doing some serious hammering.

Re:Einstein: The exception to the rule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850707)

I'd also readed that Leibniz's brain was so small, and remember, he was the master on all sciences, (on his time, obviously).

On average, men have larger brains than women (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850622)

So why do we always do what they tell us to?

Re:On average, men have larger brains than women (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850752)

Just the ones with brain sizes below avarage do what women tell them.

Re:On average, men have larger brains than women (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850778)

It increases the likelyhood that we'll get laid. QED.

In another news.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850627)

More core in a cpu, which make CPU larger, makes cpu also run faster.

Missing Word? (1, Redundant)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850630)

"Bigger Brains Make Smarter People Study" says who, precisely?

And while we're at it, study what?

Elephants (5, Funny)

onion2k (203094) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850631)

The average Asian elephant has a brain mass of 7.8kg.

I for one welcome our supremely intelligent, prehensile nosed overlords.

Re:Elephants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850816)

Well, sperm whales have an average brain mass even larger than that, and you probably don't want to know which of their body part is prehensile.

However, the brain is just 0.021% of the body weight of the sperm whale, compared to 2.1% for humans, and 3.2% for mice.

It's not the size of the hat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850633)

... it's the thickness of the skull ;-)

Question: Who did this study? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850642)

Was this study done by the same folks who said, "90% of all statistics are made up"?

hee hee (0, Redundant)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850644)

my mum tells me i was born with a strangely large head, YEAH!!!

Re:hee hee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850733)

She was referring to your penis.

In fact, what makes it so remarkable is that the size of the head is greater than the overall length by a factor of three. Now you know why you've always been called "Choad-boy" and "Mushroom cap".
(I've not witnessed the abomination, myself, mind you...)

I keep my extra brains (1)

negaluke (893108) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850654)

in a storage unit 'cause i am teh smartz0rs

Re:I keep my extra brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850781)

You should use all of it. Then maybe you could type properly.

The Mismeasure of Slashdot (1)

the packrat (721656) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850659)

Will someone dig Gould's book out and beat this idiot about the head with it? It's an fascinating read of many previous attempts by people who agendas or merely some naivete to grind to trivially quantify intelligence.

Phrenology? (1)

NoseBag (243097) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850675)

So...the phrenologists were right after all?

Cows brains much larger than ours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850676)

I saw a far side joke that showed all the cows discussing the theory of relitivity, but when the farmer came around they simply said moo.

Maybe there is more truth to that comic than we thought. Our measily 3lb brains may never know the truth.

So the smartest people must be ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850688)

Basketball and football players. So i guess there is no need for soft college programs for scholarship athletes ... put 'em in the hard courses with the rest of us. (true geeks cringe in horror ...)

Old, and false news (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850689)

It was held for far too long that because women had smaller heads, they were naturally less intelligent than men. Same with the brain sizes of blacks compared to whites.

This is a professor of management at a school of business, folks. He makes PHB's for a living - don't listen to him.

W00t! (1)

bobej1977 (580278) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850690)

My head's so damn big that I have to cut the bands off hats to make them fit.

It's so big my mother couldn't bear to look at me for the first year of my life.

Oh yes, my headbutting skills are truly devastating and apparently my mental prowess is as well.

Now if only I could get a date...

...oh the sweet irony of natural selection.

Re:W00t! (1)

barneyfoo (80862) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850695)

That's too bad because intelligence is also correlated to how much quality time your mother spends with you in early life.

Correlation does not equal causation (0)

lipbone (551309) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850702)

If it was up to me, I'd be the most intelligent person in the universe and everyone else would fall shy of my marker. I mean, there is a HUGE correlation between my thinking people are stupid and my thinking people are stupid. And, there would be a tax... a dumb tax. The smartest people would be subsidized through taxation. i.e. Depending on just how much less intelligent you are than me, you'd have to pony up a certain coin. The scale would range from almost as smart as me to dead. You would receive income based on your placement in that scale. The lower on the scale, the more physical labor you'd have to do earn a living. Can't have stupid people exercising their brains now. Could throw off the whole Thing. Of course, I'm really the most qualified to determine who does what. I mean, I AM the smartest. Everyone would submit payment to me. That's really the only smart way to do this. I would then dole out the appropriate funds to deserving brains that amused me. This would allow smart people... me... to keep on doing the brilliant things I do. Like posting here. Damn I'm smart. Damn you're stupid.

They Speak English in "What"? (1)

da3dAlus (20553) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850713)

Jules: Do you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?
Brett: No.
Jules: Royale with cheese. Do you know why they call it a Royale with cheese?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett!

Which species? (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850715)

OK, I can only assume that this would be true for most species, also... so what I'm wondering is, what non-human animals have bigger brains than humans? Any biologist geeks here know this? And if this *is* true, and there are animals with larger brains then ours, then it may be time to re-evaluate what we traditionally think of intelligent. Personally, I think that humans are an evolutionary dead end.

Re:Which species? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850800)

Lots of animals that are larger than us have bigger brains than us. In the past, people have found that something that seems to matter more is a ratio of brain mass to body mass. In this measure, humans are near the top, with dolphins, chimps, and I think some whales.

Besides, hasn't the conclusion of the featured article been debunked like a thousand times before this? I can't remember where I read it, but I know Lord Byron had a massive brain like twice the size of a normal person and he was intelligent, but not ridiculously so.

As far as I remember, the conclusion was that brain size only matters when it gets down to very small sizes - that's the difference between having enough up there just to keep the body running versus being able to "think" and all that great stuff.

A previous poster mentioned Einstein, which is correct - his brain is of average size. You guys can think what you like about him "hammering away at it" but you have to remember his insights were entirely unique at the time - it's not like he brought a previous idea to its logical conclusions.

I considered cutting my brain out to weigh it... (1)

otter42 (190544) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850723)

but then I figured that that pretty much shows how not smart I am.

Anyone else have a better way to measure my cranial capacity?

Smarter People Study? (4, Funny)

kiltedtaco (213773) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850725)

Did anyone else read the headline as: "Bigger brains make smarter people study, says ______"?

Einstein (1)

name*censored* (884880) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850726)

Yeah... Einstein had a smaller brain than usual, and neanderthals had massive brains.... It's more of a rule-of-thumb than anything...

When all else fails (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850727)

If you lose the penis measuring contest, try the brain measuring contest. Just what some people need need, something else to bitch about.

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850729)

no shit,
you people are quick.
not.

US Hat Size 8 1/2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850731)

Do you know how difficult it is to find a hat that fits? Most "one size fits all" adjustable hats won't fit, adjusted to their maximum. And most stores selling hats in a wide range of sizes top out at hat sizes 7, 7 1/2, or 8. Sometimes I can squeeze into a size 8, but it's a tight, uncomfortable fit.

Now before anyone goes and says that I'm just exceptionally thick-skulled, I have the brain MRI to show that my cranium is indeed unusually capacious, and that none of the available space is vacant, occupied instead by a fabulously intelligent brain.

... and bigger muscles make stronger people. (1)

PizzaFace (593587) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850735)

But I know some fat-headed idiots, and some fleshy weaklings. The size of the anatomy may indicate capacity, but its development is an independent variable and a large factor in actual ability.

Re:... and bigger muscles make stronger people. (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850808)

Have you ever heard the expression "in average..."?

Special cases don't matter for statistics.

So the next question is obviously.... (2, Interesting)

TrentL (761772) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850736)

....which race has, on average, the biggest brain? Any talk of brain size vs intelligence always leads to this question. It will be interesting to see what kind of conclusions are drawn, and how they will be interpreted by the general public.

Re:So the next question is obviously.... (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850799)

Well, it's not merely the brain size, the brain:body ratio in terms of size is also important.

New Type of Spam? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850740)

I can see it now:

Increase the size of your pen... uhhh... brain. Send $14.95 for a trial period to the address at the top of this page.

I don't buy it. (5, Insightful)

Antonymous Flower (848759) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850750)

Jeez, I hope not all Ph.D's are landed as easily as this guy's must have been. This is nothing more than modern phrenology. Here's a link to the actual publication: http://www.vcu.edu/uns/Releases/2005/june/McDaniel -Big%20Brain.pdf [vcu.edu]

It's mostly a literature review, which obviously attempts to use the 'majority must be right' fallacy to some mysterious end. The guy's an 'industrial psychologist,' though, so go figure.

To argue something so bold and broad that the size of the brain is an indicator for intelligence is frighteningly naive. If you leave your computer for a second and go meet a few people, you'll quickly realize that people with little heads have no problem outsmarting people with wide hats. This is about on par with 'people with big noses have big johnsons.' Don't read this publication if you're expecting any insight on anything other than a statistical analysis of random literature. You won't find any discussion of neuroplasticity here. I've a question I'd like to ask this guy: how come people 3 feet tall are smarter than you?

Jupiter is fucking huge, but let me assure you, I'd rather be back home. Bigger is not always better.

Big 'ol dome.... (1)

stuffman64 (208233) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850775)

When I graduated high school, they had to custom order my graduation cap, because they didn't have any ones big enough in stock.

And it was still really tight...

Re:Big 'ol dome.... (1)

Antonymous Flower (848759) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850814)

notice this isn't a story about the stuffman's graduation from college! the study is obviously false.

macdonald's must love a study like this. "Scientists agree! Macdonald's has helped shape a better society for over six decades!"

Only at business school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850777)

It's funny how this research was carried out by a business school - the class of school that created the likes of Enron and WorldCom.

The last thing we (collectively) need is a bunch of more egomaniacs who think they're smarter than the average bear - despite any hard evidence.

On average, those with a larger brain are more intellegent than those with a smaller brain. Next, let's "study" skin color.

too simplistic a theory (4, Informative)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850780)

As one other poster noted, Einstein had a brain that only fell in the range of "normal", giving lie to the theory size alone is an indicator of likely intelligence. Here's another interesting article [yahoo.com] I coincidentally read a couple days ago.

A couple of interesting things to take from this article:

  • brain size relates closely to gender
  • there are notable physiological differences in brains along gender lines
  • however, there are not noticable differences in intelligence between genders
  • but, there are differences in how intelligence manifests between the genders.

Before drawing conclusions on brain size and correlation with intelligence therein, read this article... it sheds far more light on this discussion than does the research "summary".

Interestingly, even though men and women have fairly significant differences in brain sizes, this article shows that women's brains develop differently than mens, with density in different regions and layers possibly offsetting size differences. I'll not go over the entire article, read it.... it's good.

Sidebar: Oh, and by the way, my brain is so small, I use the extra space inside my skull to store my CD collection.

Who's going to say it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12850783)


"Big brain = smarter"?

Then the Nazis were correct.

Here we go down the slippery slope......... (1)

Rule_Of_The_Bone (893106) | more than 8 years ago | (#12850812)

....towards approval of phrenology as an officially-sanctioned method of catagorizing individuals. This sort of bullshit "research" is best saved for those who prefer to justify their own inadaquecies and overall lack of intelligence. Could it also be that those who believe in this sort of twaddle suffer from megalocephaly and have trouble finding a hat that fits?
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