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Firstborn Get the Brains

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the as-an-eldest-sibling-i-find-this-research-quite-accurate dept.

Education 467

Dekortage writes "Eldest children have higher IQs than their siblings, according to a recent study by Norwegian researchers. The study focused on men, particularly 'on teasing out the biological effects of birth order from the effects of social status,' but indicates that the senior boy in a family (either by being firstborn, or if an elder brother died) has an average IQ two or three points higher than younger brothers. As noted in the New York Times coverage, 'Experts say it can be a tipping point for some people — the difference between a high B average and a low A, for instance... that could mean the difference between admission to an elite private college and a less exclusive public one.'"

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Which study do you believe? (1)

Njoyda Sauce (211180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607183)

I think Ender's Game is more compelling evidence that the 3rds are where it's at!

Re:Which study do you believe? (4, Funny)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607237)

Well, I have some very reliable evidence that the seventh son is the most powerful, but only if it's a seventh son of a seventh son.

Re:Which study do you believe? (4, Funny)

altoz (653655) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607239)

Yea, but Peter took over the world while Ender only saved it.

Re:Which study do you believe? (2, Funny)

bronzey214 (997574) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607313)

Some of us have to finish reading it, you insensitive clod!

Re:Which study do you believe? (2, Insightful)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607471)

Ender wasn't smarter than Peter or Val, he was more emotionally suited for Battle School. Not too cruel, not too merciful.

Re:Which study do you believe? (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607619)

Definately the case with me. My elder brother did ok at school - 68% on his leaving, and went on to complete a nursing degree. My elder sister got a 48% on her leaving and flunked out of uni (how she even got in eludes me) - she did child care and lousy retail jobs before eventually doing a management diploma at a technical college. I'm the bright one of the three - systems engineering (mechatronics) with first class honours, about to finish my PhD in robotics. I'm not saying my siblings are dumb (hardly... well... except maybe my sister) but I was always the smart one.


ps - captcha is "benefit"

2 or 3 points? (2, Insightful)

ecklesweb (713901) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607187)

And what is the standard error on the particular IQ test they used?

Evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607349)

And what is the standard error on the particular IQ test they used?
Given the evidence [] why do you even have to ask?

Re:2 or 3 points? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607377)

It's not relevant. While between any two takers the standard error will show how far apart their scores have to be to be meaningful, it does not simply transfer over to averages of ALL IQ scores in aggregate. In other words, if the standard error is 4 points, you do not say that your measurement of the average score also has a standard error of 4 points.

Re:2 or 3 points? (3, Insightful)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607409)

They used the records of around 250 000 people, mmmmkay?

The standard error pretty much disappears at that sort of number of participants.

Re:2 or 3 points? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607525)

2 or 3 IQ points mean NOTHING. How about emotional intelligence?

Re:2 or 3 points? (1)

Silentknyght (1042778) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607649)

And what is the standard error on the particular IQ test they used?
Insofar as the IQ test is concerned, I was under the impression that IQs were measured in 10s, as in you could get a score of 100 or 110 but not 103. Correct? Without reading TFA, I would guess that they took the average IQ of their groups and compared them, whereupon they found that the first-sibling average was 2-3 points higher. In that case, sample-size rather than the IQ test itself would be more important/significant for the effect of the outcome.

Tags: Yes, No. (1)

vilms (106676) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607191)

In my case: No.

Man, little brothers really have it bad... (5, Funny)

illeism (953119) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607197)

Zonk!!!! - "as-an-eldest-sibling-i-find-this-research-quite-a ccurate" - as the defender of little brother everywhere that's NOT NICE!!!

...the senior boy in a family... has an average IQ two or three points higher than younger brothers... Experts say it can be a tipping point for some people
Well, that explains why I'm a network admin instead of the CIO.
I also wonder if being a middle child has any effect on IQ...
I wonder if I will get those extra IQ points if I eat his brains...

Re:Man, little brothers really have it bad... (5, Funny)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607645)

I also wonder if being a middle child has any effect on IQ...

Dunno about IQ (other than it being lower than firstborn's) but I recall a study showing that if you have an older and a younger brother you are more likely to be gay...

Re:Man, little brothers really have it bad... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607691)


I wonder if I will get those extra IQ points if I eat his brains...

Well, dear illeism, RTFA!

... the senior boy in a family (either by being firstborn, or if an elder brother died) has an average IQ two or three points higher...

Re:Man, little brothers really have it bad... (3, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607701)

Duhhhh, I have to have my older brother read this article to me. Me not read good.

the teacher (5, Interesting)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607199)

It wouldn't surprise me, as the act of teaching while learning tends to reinforce the learning. The oldest kid, whether consciously or not, ends up demonstrating any new knowledge and capabilities to the younger kids in the family or neighborhood.

Re:the teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607441)

It would be interesting to see if children who have siblings have (or grow up to have) greater IQ than those who have no siblings.

Re:the teacher (2, Insightful)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607541)

A valid idea except for the fact that the older kid starts out ahead of the younger kid so the younger kid spends his/her energy catching up. Usually the younger kid has more time for such things.

I also think it depends on the atmosphere and age difference. If the kid is 8 years older than the younger then the order probably makes no difference. An even more extreme circumstance is my cousin's girlfriend. She has a daughter who is 26 and 24 years later she had twins. I'm willing to bet the experience she gained from being a parent will help the twins and ultimately the twins will be much more intelligent as her older daughter is making a lot of the same mistakes she did.

Of course we're all aware that IQ isn't everything, certainly not the difference between attending one of them fancy schools versus community college.

Re:the teacher (2, Insightful)

pato101 (851725) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607601)

I agree.

Also oldest kid is given more attention during first years and she will be more stimulated by her parents than younger siblings coming afterwards. When younger siblings born, parents are focussed in older son as well, so they not have all the resources (time) they "spent" on the first son.
At least, this is my experience. With 3 children@home, I'm pretty run out of time lately...

Re:the teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607683)

Um, the summary stated that the study was on males, not females in the birth order / social studies.

Re:the teacher (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607627)

I don't know if "reinforced learning" necessarily equates to higher IQ, but I think the experience itself stimulates the mind and forces it to grow in areas it would not otherwise. I think the mind itself will grow when it adapts to dispense information, not just absorb it.

Re:the teacher (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607669)

I suspect it has more to do with amount and type of parental attention. Having watched several of my friends raise their multiple children, I have noticed that parents(especially fathers) tend to spend more time teaching things to the eldest child than to succeeding children (although the oldest of either gender gets more attention, even if they aren't the firstborn). I am the youngest of a large family and by every measure the smartest of them (including my siblings own statements). However, there is a gap between me and the next in age. My older siblings all spent a lot of time lavishing attention on me in ways that have been shown in studies to increase intelligence. I have observed that parents tend to lavish greater amounts of the same types of attention on their eldest sons.

Who cares..? (2, Insightful)

3p1ph4ny (835701) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607203)

that could mean the difference between admission to an elite private college and a less exclusive public one.
Who gives a shit? In most science/engineering fields, going to a public school for undergrad is the same education you get at an "elite" school, for $30,000 less in tuition.

Re:Who cares..? (0, Troll)

hokiejimbo (751496) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607241)

Sounds like someone has a little resentment... WIPE YOUR TEARS WIMP

Re:Who cares..? (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607249)

Clueless HR people definitely will. Even if it's just the criterium the decides between to otherwise equally suitable candidates.

Re:Who cares..? (1)

3p1ph4ny (835701) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607475)

If clueless HR people are doing the hiring of research/development staff, that company is already in the shitter.

Re:Who cares..? (1)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607395)

Very true. Not many of the elite "Ivy League" schools are any good at engineering. There are obvious exceptions including MIT. But compare most to, say, a UC-Berkeley when it comes to Computer Science and Engineering.

Re:Who cares..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607723)

MIT isn't a member of the Ivy League, nor is Berkeley (which is a public school). And Princeton, which is a member, is enormously good for engineering.

Why are you using scare quotes when talking about the Ivy League? What are you trying to convey?

Re:Who cares..? (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607517)

It looks like they used the opportunity to take a hit at public schools. Large public schools are far better than 99% of the private schools out there. Look at what the large public schools of the major athletic conferences do for the country and world. These are major research Universities, many of which are only outdone by MIT.

Wow man (5, Funny)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607205)

Firstborn Get the Brains would be an awesome name for a zombie movie!

(Pardon my stupid ramblings - I'm not an eldest son, you see)

how about daughters? (0)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607207)

What if first born = daughter and next born is son?

Re:how about daughters? (2, Funny)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607277)

TheLink, women can't go to college

(Just kidding. Until last fall my wife had a higher level of education than I did)

Re:how about daughters? (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607427)

They compared males only to make things clearer, since comparig males and females would also bring up a sex-derived difference in IQ scores (women are much better at algebra while males do a lot better at geometry, and so on).

Re:how about daughters? (1)

delt0r (999393) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607433)

It depends on how hot the daugter is.

Re:how about daughters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607435)

she makes really good pies.

Re:how about daughters? (1)

discontinuity (792010) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607499)

What if first born = daughter and next born is son?

Interesting question. The study was confined strictly to men, but they didn't just study families having only sons. Their methodology was to data mine old military records (mid-60's to mid-70's) and look at the IQ scores of people based upon whether they are the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd born. So I suspect there are plenty of cases where they looked at the IQ scores for 2nd-borns who had older sisters. However, the looked only at men, so they have no data about the IQ of the sisters.

The study authors do seem to think there would be the same effect across both sexes. From TFA: "Because sex has little effect on I.Q. scores, the results almost certainly apply to females as well, said Dr. Petter Kristensen, an epidemiologist at the University of Oslo and the lead author of the Science study."

Flawed Study!!! (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607211)

As the second of five brothers, I can say that the second of five is always the smartest, not the first.

Its troo. Just ask meh.

Re:Flawed Study!!! (1)

dotHectate (975458) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607557)

Ahh, interesting.

As second of five, I have the brains in the family too, although my older brother is not far behind IMHO.
The interesting thing is that the next three are all girls. Even more interesting is that before the "oldest" (my bro) there was a little girl that died shortly after birth, and a miscarriage.

So what does THAT say about this?

How about the $$$? (0)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607213)

School grades mean shit. How does that translate into $$$? And don't give me that "better grades -> better job -> more $$$" crap. Just look at the NBA.

Re:How about the $$$? (4, Insightful)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607531)

Grades aren't meaningless if you have any plans to attend University. They aren't meaningless if you plan to earn an MBA, MD, LLB, or a graduate degree (Masters, PhD, etc.).

It's true that a lot of people have earned a great living despite poor grades or lack of education, but these people represent a minority. For many people, grades are a major factor in determining acceptance or rejection to paths of life that guarantee some amount of financial success.

It's fairly easy to figure out how school grades can translate into money. If you've got top grades, you earn a chance at being accepted to a Law school (for example). Once you've done your time, you are practically guaranteed a six-figure income: that's money in your pocket because you excelled at school. However, if you act as if grades are irrelevant, you're success might just be dancing with Lady Luck.

This is obvious. (0)

Kimos (859729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607227)

I think all of us first-borns have known this for years!

Re:This is obvious. (2, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607321)

OK, I'm the older brother by 3.5 years, have a Master's degree, etc., whereas my brother has a high school diploma and rides in on a Harley.
I wonder, though, if there isn't a broader organizational behavior principle at work here.
Keep an eye on the phrase

the senior boy in a family (either by being firstborn, or if an elder brother died)
How often at work is there a tautology, whereby the senior headz are the only ones equipped to perform certain tasks/make decisions, simply by virtue of longevity. Once they retire, get flattened by a bus, or move on to a position at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, then the next person in line steps up.
Thus, I dispute the title "Firstborn Get the Brains", and offer instead that, in families as in other organizations, we do a sub-optimal job of affording the juniors the opportunity to negotiate the learning curve.
"Firstborn Get the Brains" somehow implies that the womb retains some state in between children, and knows to shortchange the later arrivals.
My younger brother and sister have also floated some really irritating cop-outs based on this birth order talk. Raises my hackles. I had been going to troll this article using Exodus 13:12

That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD's.
calling it subliminal Christian propaganda, but then I thought the better of it. ;)

Re:This is obvious. (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607667)

LIke most Zonk articles, the title is misleading. The study specifically notes that you don't actually have to be the first-born, just the oldest-living.

Though saying the the family "does a sub-optimal job of...junior's learning" is a bit of an oversimplification -- like most organizations the family has responsibilities outside of the education of children, and a 2-3 point IQ difference may not be a bad trade for the other gains the family sees.

Or you could look at it from another point of view, saying something like the oldest child has to teach themselves more things, having no peers to learn from. This self-educational skill is unecessary for younger siblings and, while that skill may be advantagous, the siblines receive a direct benefit in peer-based education that the oldest sibbling did not.

It's been known for years (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607719)

That kids at different points in the family structure get different amounts of parental attention. And that's just to start with. The firstborn gets usually, years of exclusive attention which the younger kids by definition can never have.


what if the firstborn was a girl? (2, Insightful)

iHasaFlavour (1118257) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607229)

How does the eldest sibling being a girl effect this?

Sounds to me like this study is meaningless anyway. They focus on men from one country, an affluent country with little liklihood of malnutrician being a factor, and all at the same point in their lives, being during compulsary military service. That carries with it the further distorting factor that none of these men were disqualified for reasons of physical/psychological disability, and to be honest, if you're educationally sub normal, you ain't getting to play with guns...

Actually (0)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607233)

My brother is doing WAY better in college than me.

Ugh IQ... (0, Troll)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607251)

... measuring IQ is like measuring whether or not a million angels can dance on the head of a pin. A difference of three IQ points seems almost within the margin of error and this says nothing of possible increase in co-morbid disorders with a higher IQ, now THAT would be interesting.

Next is pleiopetry (sp?) where genes code for more then one trait. I don't think a study like this is worth much without checking up on people later in life and comparing outcomes.

Re:Ugh IQ... (2, Funny)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607429)

So you're the youngest, eh? Sorry dude, better luck next reincarnation.

Re:Ugh IQ... (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607483)

measuring IQ is like measuring whether or not a million angels can dance on the head of a pin. A difference of three IQ points seems almost within the margin of error and this says nothing of possible increase in co-morbid disorders with a higher IQ
Uh-oh. Sound's like somebody is jealous of his older brother! :-)

Re:Ugh IQ... (5, Informative)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607485)

A difference of three IQ points seems almost within the margin of error
Since you say 'seems', I presume you didn't read TFA, otherwise you would know whether it did or didn't fall within the margin of error. And therefore it appears that you don't understand the concept of 'margin of error'. The margin of error can be arbitrarily small, it depends on the sample size .

In this study, they had 241,310 subjects. If memory serves me right, the population standard deviation is 15 points, so we have a margin or error along the order of 15 divided by the square root of 241,310, or 0.03. That is, two orders of magnitude smaller than 3 IQ points, which to you 'seems almost within the margin of error'.

Of course, the actual margin of error depends on other things, such as how many children were firstborn in the sample, how many were secondborn, etc. Still, with such a large sample, the final standard deviation should be much smaller than a single IQ point, making their conclusions statistically interesting. And, in fact, if the results were not statistically significant, they wouldn't get published very easily, and certainly not in Science.

IQ != Intelligence (4, Informative)

h2oliu (38090) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607255)

In spite of what some would like to tell you, IQ is not a measurement of intelligence. It could be considered a measurement of knowledge and training. Admittedly those who are "More intelligent" in theory could learn better, but these things are so screwy that this is essentially meaningless.

Maybe first born are just home bodies, and thus spend more time studying.

actually.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607509)

While I agree that often times an IQ test does not mean much with respect to a person's success in life, IQ tests are generally designed to test aptitude and ability to learn...NOT training and knowledge. Whether or not these tests successfully do this is a matter of debate, of course...but the intention IS to test aptitude not knowledge.

Re:IQ != Intelligence (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607545)

IQ is a measurement of intelligence, but not of total intelligence; it just measures a particular subset of it. I read something once where there are multiple areas of intelligence.

I do think people with higher IQ can learn new material faster and easier, but the 2 to 3 points difference mentioned is insignificant on a individual basis.

There is probably a significant "nurture" factor. First borns are an only child for awhile and get more attention. Once they do have siblings the environment can help stimulate the brain as they both have to learn new things as well as help teach the younger ones at the same time.

Re:IQ != Intelligence (5, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607549)

I have a bone to pick with that statement.

IQ may not be the *only* thing that corresponds to intelligence, but it definitely is an objective measure of some factors that we consider to be the hallmarks of an intelligent person.

Now, there may be other measures and metrics (objective and subjective) that may correspond to intelligence - good language skills, good social skills, good game playing skills and so on. However, that does not necessarily mean that good quantitative and problem solving skills is also not a good measure.

A quarterback who can gauge how the field looks at a given moment and decide upon a particular action is just as intelligent (in a different way) as someone who is excellent at arithmetic. Similarly, someone who has excellent social skills (i.e. read emotions) is just as intelligent as someone who has a prodigious memory. A marketing person is just as intelligent as a computer programmer in a different way, and a tennis player is just as intelligent as a musician, in a different way.

But none of that means that IQ is *not* a measure of intelligence - it is. It just is not the *only* measure of intelligence.

I think there is a difference. A subtle difference, that's for sure, but a difference nevertheless.

yeah right.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607259)

While my older brother did/does get better grades than me (which is not surprising if you look at studies on firstborns vs secondborns in terms of social dealing), nobody in my family even remotely doubts that my intellect far surpasses his, and my IQ has been tested at several points higher.

Speaking as a middle child... (2, Interesting)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607265)

I can say that my older brother's high IQ is severely hampered by severe lack of common sense :P

Girls (2, Interesting)

The Queen (56621) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607267)

I'd be more interested in seeing a study that not only includes girls, but breaks down as such:

Family of only boys
Family of both with boy as eldest
Family of both with girl as eldest
Family of only girls

For my experience, I am the first born (girl) with one younger sister; I'm a graphics/web designer/computer geek and she's a scientist who works in a lab with dangerous chemicals. If there is a difference between us it's slight. I'd wager that would hold true for most girl siblings regardless of pecking order.

Re:Girls (4, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607411)

If there is a difference between us it's slight. I'd wager that would hold true for most girl siblings regardless of pecking order.

Hmm, my wife has a science PhD and her sister is a mor... um, is more talented in non-academic areas.

Re:Girls (3, Funny)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607463)

Hmm, my wife has a science PhD and her sister is a mor... um, is more talented in non-academic areas. ....tell me more!

Re:Girls (3, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607629)

I knew I shouldn't have started this.

Re:Girls (4, Insightful)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607449)

I do not want to make this sound like flamebait, but if I had 50 graphics/web designer/computer geeks and 50 scientists, only 50% of them would say that the difference between them is slight. And they would all be from the first group.
I myself am an engineer who looks down upon both scientists and web designers, but I think scientists are smart (high IQ). Web designers are creative - they COULD have high IQs, but need not necessarily have high IQs. This is why DeVry has a program in web design and not in molecular biology. Cheers! -- Vig

We can't rule out global warming. (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607271)

Due to the earth being warmer, people may be getting smaller brains over time.

Re:We can't rule out global warming. (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607345)



Could it be... (1)

akkarin (1117245) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607275)

Could it be the first born receives more attention, and thus brain development?

Re:Could it be... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607315)

I'd offer a counterpoint to that... we parents make all our mistakes on the first one and do it better the second and third time around (something my wife and I were talking about last night). For example, the second one sleeps through the night better since we learned from the first. Same will go with potty training, reading, etc. Really, the first one has to work with the parents to excel, and after that the parents have a better grasp on parenting and I think its easier on the next kids... just my theory.

But.. but... (5, Funny)

dmayle (200765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607299)

but... that can't be true, I'm not the first born in my family, and my older sister... frist post!!! GNAA!!! In Soviet Russia...

Oh wait, ok, I guess I can kind of see their point...

Re:But.. but... (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607663)

As a first born, I have to say ... no, you probably don't.

Subtle IQ differences (5, Interesting)

John3 (85454) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607301)

Interesting study and the stats seem to back up their theory. However, the IQ difference is so subtle that I wonder how much difference it really makes. Does an IQ of 102 really provide that much of an advantage over someone with an IQ of 100?

Based on personal experience raising two daughters, I'm sure that part of the reason the second child lose two points of IQ is that the parents just start getting tired. :) Your first child gets all your energy, and you try out interesting things, go to interesting places. The arrival of the second child means you now divide your time and energy and so the second child will tend to lose out. When the first child leaves the house the second child is nearly full grown anyway.

I wonder if they looked at homes where the children were very far apart in age? Suppose one child was 10 when the second child was born. By that time the parents are comfortable with the progress of child #1 and might devote more time to child #2 than they would have if the children were only a year or two apart.

Re:Subtle IQ differences (2, Interesting)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607579)

Some facts in the article certainly could support your hypothesis that it might be down to less stimuli while young:

The average IQ of first-born men was 103.2, they found.
Second-born men averaged 101.2, but second-born men whose older sibling died in infancy scored 102.9.
And for third-borns, the average was 100.0. But if both older siblings died young, the third-born score rose to 102.6.
Another related thing I read about (some years ago) was about that truly bilingual (using both languages at home) young children had a better ability for selecitve attention than monolingual children. Selective attention means the ability to sort out the important aspects and discard unimportant ones. Which obviously helps when you're going to form abstract concepts/thoughts. Learning two languages must be a lot more intellectually stimulating for the children (doesn't need to be hard though)... and it would seem that it also helps developing their intellectual capabilities.

Firstborns have exclusive dibs ... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607317)

... on their parents for at least nine months, and receive all the attention during that time. And for an infant, play/attention equals learning. All following kids will have to deal with parents who are already stressed out by their firstborn. ;)

Re:Firstborns have exclusive dibs ... (1)

Kris_B_04 (883011) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607503)

That's pretty much what I was thinking.

I didn't RTFA, but did they look at kids who were adopted? Did they look at kids who are first born because their siblings died (miscarriage, stillborn, etc)

I think it is environment not genetics when it comes to something like this.

The oldest has the parents first, has more time with them, parents are worried about doing it right and educating and playing with their kids, but by the time the other kids come along, they are burnt out. They try to do the same, but it's double or even triple the work, so the younger one's don't get that specialized one on one.

I don't think they are suffering because of it, but I do think that environment needs to be taken into account.


Insesuhtive Claud! (5, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607319)

I wuz born sevunteenth you insensuhtive Claud!

Variations (1)

the_kanzure (1100087) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607329)

The idealized likelihood of any one particular person is one in 64 trillion [] different genetic combinations of mother and father chromosomes. And with 100 billion neurons [] being stimulated throughout childhood, how are we to say that birth order influences one particular variable that we measure with various psychology tests? There is an immense amount of complexity that we cannot yet isolate (ask the neuroscientists), even in estimating the likelihood of specific combinations of genes because of diffusion gradients, energy interaction dynamics of DNA, and all sorts of other phenomena that keep us guessing only in 'Idealized' cases-- birth order is nowhere near such an idealization, however.

* Wikipedia linked me to this re: birth order and intelligence [] .
* Judith Harris on birth order [] and related psychology.

Evolution? (2, Funny)

rajats (891347) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607335)

So isn't this theory anti-evolution? The younger children are less smarter than the oldest one.

Re:Evolution? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607561)

Ummm... no.

I'd provide a full explanation, but something tells me that if you were interested in one, you wouldn't have ended up posting this comment.

The first sentence alone on the Wikipedia article for evolution provides enough information to dispute your claim.

Re:Evolution? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607617)

Only if you come from a family where your brother is also your father.

Wow (1)

tylersoze (789256) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607337)

A whole 2 or 3 points on a test that completely accurately gauges a person's intelligent and future success. Amazing! Take that kid brother, with your 131 IQ compared to my 133. Fucking retard! Have fun working a McDonalds while I complete my Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics!

Well I guess now that study is complete they can move on to less important things like curing cancer.

Stand by while I email this to my younger sister. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607363)

Yep, it's accurate. Her reply was "SKROO YOO."

Exceptions ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607373)

So "Malcolm in the middle" is not really right is it?

Off-topic, but are private schools always (2, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607385)

better than public? Not really. For example, in CS you have places like UC Berkley, University of Maryland, University of Washington that are competitive with places like MIT and CMU. All those schools are public(though they might as well be private for students out of state, but I digress)

A lot of people like denigrating public universities, but I don't really understand why. To be honest, they are some pretty bad public universities, but there are also bad private schools as well (Patriot University, Regent University etc)

..but second borns get the girls :-) (5, Funny)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607393)

So you can probably tell that I'm a firstborn, otherwise I'd be 'doing' something interesting instead of posting on /.

Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607423)

So that's why my sister (the youngest) is going to grad school for psychology, I (the middle) work in IT, and my brother (the oldest) grew up obsessing about the WWF wanting to be a pro wrestler and then ultimately joined a cult.

Yes, the eldest clearly got all the brains here. Good study!

Hardly news (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607457)

... to those us who are firstborn males. We knew it all along, but out of pity for our poor dumb siblings agreed to keep it between ourselves.

Then again how do you explain this first-born male? []

Data points (5, Interesting)

garoo (203070) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607469)

Just to commit a plural of anecdotes error:

Einstein was the older sibling, as I think is Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler and Robert Oppenheimer - doing fine so far. On the other hand (and merely AFAIK), Blaise Pascal was the second son, Dirac was the second son, Niels Bohr was the second of three, Faraday appears to have been well into the plurals and Ernest Rutherford was the fourth-born child. Van de Graaff had three older brothers, all of whom were into football rather than physics.

All of which may go to suggest only that seventh sons don't necessarily need to sell their scientific calculator and resign themselves to brainless toil quite yet.

Methinks the data has a few outliers (1, Insightful)

sane? (179855) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607487)

George W Bush, eldest son of George H W Bush.

I wuz furst born mail! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607491)

I R smurt!

think my older sister had a game of strangulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607505)

hey 500 pound gorilla quit hitting me on the head!

of course today abuse is a laughing matter and never taken into consideration... for... anything. never been happier

We should conduct a study... (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607507)

To see how far on average the slashdot titles for stories are away from the actual content.

I wouldn't normally be bothered by the differnce between "First Born Gets All the Brains" and "Eldest Son Gets All the Brains" but come on, the story clearly states its not the first born, and by saying it is, you almost imply this a genetic study and it isn't, the whole point is if they were raised as the oldest, even if they aren't (ie, dead sibling) so the story is about nurture of the child and not genetics.

Old news... really old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607571)

I read something like this 20+ years ago in Reader's Digest, or some such rag. At the time I believe they said that second-borns were usually much more socially adept, with the third-begats being the highest on the social ladder of their peers.

Interesting... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607573)

But did they take into consideration where the second born came along in a later marriage and raised alone? I was my mom's second-born and my dad's first-born. Out of my immediate family, I'm the only one who graduated from community college twice (General Ed in 1994 and Computer Programming in 2007), and working in the technology field. Everyone else is still working in the blue-collar field.

Time and Twins (1)

ruffnsc (895839) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607593)

I wonder if the time between the boys is significant more so than the fact they are 1st and 2nd in birthing order. For instance what about twins who can be born less than a minute apart? The study was very wide in scope and should include much more information.

Significant? Yes...meaningful, no. (2, Informative)

fropenn (1116699) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607605)

Ah, yes...another case of "how to distort the truth with statistics".

Statistically, when you have a large number of individuals in your study (e.g., 250,000 is a huge number) you have a large amount of statistical power to detect minor differences.

In this case, while they detected a significant difference in IQ scores (whether or not IQ scores measure actual intelligence is subject of a different post), the difference may not have any practical meaning - "2 or 3 points" on a scale that has a standard deviation of 15 points is a very small effect (and thus has little practical meaning).

What a worthless study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19607609)

I know far too many younger siblings who would appear to be more intelligent than their eldest siblings for one simple reason: they watch their eldest fuck up royally and learn from their mistakes.

Maybe it is not just the birth (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607635)

Yes, I know, personnal examples are very weak proof...

In my father's family (5 boys and two girls), only two kids went to high school: my oldest uncle and my dad, who is the youngest of the family but also the only one who went to an university. The thing is that he is 15 years younger than his youngest brother, so he was technically raised as an only child.

I also see my two nephews (8 and 6), and it is clear that the youngest one is smart, but also lazy so he always try to have his brother help him (or, to me more precise, do the whole work) whenever his homework gets a little too difficult.

All this tells me is ... (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607661)

I am in the wrong line of work.

I envy "researchers" who can come up with this sort of neo-darwinistic crap, rummage through some I.Q. scores and tell the world "If you aren't a first born son, forget about it."

I can here the session at the bar now:

RESEARCHER ONE: I never thought it would get published. Honest, it was just a joke.
RESEARCHER TWO: You fool! We'll just have to play along with it or our careers are over.
RESEARCHER ONE: I'll never underestimate the public's stupidity again. (sob)

First! (0, Troll)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607673)


implications of the one child policy? (2, Interesting)

finlandia1869 (1001985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607685)

Does this mean that China's one child policy is creating a race of Han superchildren? Unless, of course, you fail to have a son the first time, then you can try again.

Twins? (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#19607717)

I'm an identical twin, you insensitive clod!

Well, I am the older, but only by 7 minutes...
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