The stereotype of a smart person usually shows that person wearing glasses. Is there a grain of truth to this or is this just a convention that sprang up because a famous professor once worn glasses — sort of like Einstein’s hair and bad science fiction scientists? I ask this because a friend of mine swears that nearsightedness has been shown to have a correlation with intelligence.
I think the stereotype dates back to near the advent of glasses, and the idea behind it was that “smart” people damaged their eyes by reading.
No cite, though, and I’ve never seen anything claiming a correlation.
Close work does affect eyesight. There is an embroidery stitch that was banned in the east because those who did it eventually went blind.
I’m not sure I understand. How does using your eyes to see things up close cause you to go blind or otherwise damage your eyesight? If this is true, wouldn’t it follow that looking at things far away for a few hours would also cause eye strain and similar eye problems?
I’d heard the converse, lee: that close work doesn’t affect eyesight, although it certainly seems plausible that it would. I also have no cite though.
As for the stereotype of glasses = smarter, I can only offer the anecdotal evidence that it certainly seems to be true in my case.
I also think that when glasses were first invented, the only people who wore them needed them to read, which meant they were literate, which at the time wasn’t that usual. Glasses therefore automatically meant that you were educated.
From the abstract from Myopia, Intelligence, and the Expanding Human Neocortex:
Read the paper to see if it answers the question; but the stereotype certainly predates much research.
Another thought occurs, that while many might have benefitted from correctional lenses, few actually got them. With corrected vision, those few would be better able to perform in the world and may thus have been perceived as smarter.
I think that there has actually been a study done that showed that people who wore glasses are, on average, 11 IQ points higher than those who do not. I am not sure how contacts affected this figure.
Shalmanese, I heard the same thing. Of course you’re kidding about the contacts affecting this - right
Thanks for the link Ringo. Seems that the author of the paper indicates that along with the myopia correlation — there is also an asthma, allergies and relative brain size correlation. Sounds just like the stereotype of a nerd - No?
My older brother was (and is) into and exceptionally good at math. When he was a kid, he was sent to a training camp for the math olympics. He noticed that something like 60% of the attendees wore glasses. FWIW.
Princhester, just so your brother doesn’t think he is alone in that observation- here is a quote from the paper that Ringo linked.
** 11. The moderate statistical association reported between myopia and intelligence strengthens greatly as one approaches the upper echelon of IQ performance (see section 2.1). For example, in a study by this author of 2,720 members of high-IQ organizations (mainly Mensa), 47% of the females and 33% of the males reported very early onset myopia (i.e. by age 10), compared with an ‘expected’ rate of roughly 5% among age cohorts with IQs in the normal range.**
I am told that the Innuit have had a huge increase in myopia since the “settlers” started to “educate” them.
Singapore has a similar problem among its students.
But if there is a correlation between poor eyesight and high IQ -
how come these Einsteins keep forgetting where they put their glasses?
Now I’ll go and have a look ar Ringo’s link - soon as I can find my specs…
No, I was serious. Perhaps people who are more concerned with looking good opt to wear contacts wheras people who want to look intellectual will choose t wear glasses. Thus, glasses weares might smarter by contact wearers by a significant amount. Also, poor people can’t afford glasses as much as rich people which means that the rich are over-represented in the glasses wearing sample.
I worked for a Doctor of Optometry at Berkeley (in a completely non-scientific role) who almost beat me over the head over the issue of close visual objects affecting eyesight. She insisted that the eye muscles were more powerful than people assumed, and working at a computer (what I was doing while wearing glasses) would not cause long term vision damage. Trust me, I’ve rarely been as intimidated as when she stood there in her lab coat and started demanding WHY I was wearing glasses. With a response much like “Um, because the doctor told me to?” it is fairly hard to maintain dignity.
Given that I’ll trust her (she has had a doctorate longer than I’ve been alive), I’d venture into looking at educated people wearing eyeglasses because 1) They tend to be richer, 2) They tend to read more, and a vision problem would be more important than if they were, say, a farmer, and 3) Short term effects of eye muscles being tired. My problem is that my left eye muscles take longer to focus, so I fall into the third grouping.
Personally, I like glasses, given the style matches the face. Hm, intelligence fetish… not that I put much stock into IQ as a reflection of intelligence.
I was always told that using your eyes cannot damage them, and I can’t think of anyway that it could.
As an early myope it always seemed to me that those with bad vision must be smarter or more creative than those with good vision from a strictly evolutionary viewpoint. If I lived 10,000 years ago I would have been worthless for hunting, and mediocre at gathering. Something must have been present to allow myopic genes to be maintained.
In the end, everyone needs glasses, the difference between myopes (short-sighted) and hyperopes (long-sighted) is when the need becomes apparent. Myopes can do nothing to improve their distance vision except to wear corrective lenses. Hyperopes automatically adjust their vision (by muscular contraction) to bring the picture into focus, and only with the passage of time does their ability to pull the focus diminish to the point that they can feel the strain.
This makes myopes less capable of long-distance activities like hitting moving targets etc. They would tend by nature to be what we call “bookish”, engaged in up-close activities. In the pre-reading societies, they would have been liabilities (consuming more than they produce), and thus would have been regarded as “stupid” instead of “clever”. Now, we regard them as “smarter”, but there’s no correlation between your vision and your intellect (unless of course you’ve allowed a blatant impairment of vision to interfere with education).
dauerbach’s genetic question illustrates how complex our genome is. For several million years, myopes were at a disadvantage, yet the condition persists (as far as we know, in exactly the same proportions then as today). Why didn’t it breed out? Questions like this strike fear into the hearts of pure Darwinists, and AFAIK the jury remains out.
Recently my optometrist told me that our eyes are not designed for prolonged close up work, as in reading, or computer work, but rather for distance vision… eg. looking over the plains to spot the herd of whatever was for dinner or approaching enemies etc.
This was while explaining the likely causes of my 9yr old’s recurrent headaches when his vision was perfect and other possible causes ruled out. I guess this is why kids are always told to look up and focus on something in the distance every so often while using the computer, or doing a lot of reading. The eyes are not ‘comfortable’ with prolonged close focus.
As far as wearing glasses and intelligence goes, well it must be true, I wear glasses. Funny though, I didn’t get them until I was 40 - does this mean I was a late maturer, intelligence-wise?
On a tangent, I saw the results of an interesting study while I was walking through the psyc building at UVA. They wanted to study whether people thought those with glasses were smarter than those without. So they showed subjects a bunch of pictures of people with and without glasses, and asked them how smart the person in the picture was.
The results were a bit unexpected. While the men wearing glasses were not perceived to be any different in intelligence than those not, the women wearing glasses were perceived to be significantly less intelligent than those without. Not sure what it means.
what if people with better vision minds process more at once constantly because of seeing things in more detail, so when learning the mind is more “distracted” than some one with a lesser vision. but the one with better vision is in a sense more intelligent because it is gaining more exercise from “processing” more
I dunno, but I’ll bet zombies are less intelligent than both people with glasses and people without glasses.