Why aren't big & tall people much smarter (because of bigger brains)?

Since I heard brain size is directly related to intelligence (i.e. making fun of someone for having the brain the size of a ‘walnut’) i would ask, why aren’t big & tall people much smarter? It would seem that a small child (kid genius) could never be so smart, and that big adults would be smarter.

Yet Andre the Giant was not the brightest bulb, at least based on his wrestling performances.

I know you might say that blue whales would be smarter than humans, but their brains are of a different structure. Whereas a bigger human should have the same brain structure.

So why aren’t big boys all geniuses, and all midgets dumb?

Who says we’re not smart?

Brewha - 6’5" 230lbs.
Occupation - Rocket Scientist

OK, actually I’m an aerospace engineer. But rocket scientists are just aerospace engineers that work on rockets

Brain size is roughly correlated to intelligence between species, but within a species, but within humans, it’s mainly a matter of the particular mix of brain cells you get. Remember that most of the brain isn’t used for cognition so much as regulation of the body and sensory processing.

It seems that part of brain responsible for trait which we call intelligence is just small scrap of neocortex. Total brain volume isn’t in any way correlated with intelligence.

Damn. Me too.

But is bigness or tallness related to brain size?

If I eat enough Ho-Ho’s, will my brain get bigger as my gut does?

My search-fu is lacking, but there was recently an article which indicated that brain size was not the issue, but rather it was the interconnects within the brain.

Do “little people” have sub-normal intelligence, discounting the ones who have “normal”-sized heads? Are adults necessarily smarter than kids? Are men necessarily smarter than women?

I don’t think so.

I suspect people who are well nourished as children are both taller and more intelligent on average (either because malnourisment impedes mental development, or because they’re simply less likely to have access to education) then their peers brought up in situations where food was harder to come by. So at least in places where part of the population suffers from malnourishment, I bet there’s a correlation between height and intelligence.

I suggest you read The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen J Gould, which pretty thoroughly debunks the myth that individual humans’ brain-size is correlated with intelligence. In fact, he pretty much rejects the idea that any individual factor can/should be used to rank people and their abilities (so he also rejects anything simplistic as an IQ score).

First of all, over-all brain size is no measure of “intelligence” between species but relative brain size. The brain size of a whale proportionally to its body is considerably less than the brain size of a human in comparison to its body. Humans have a much larger cranial capacity than expected based on their body size. Furthermore, our brains fold in more than any other species which enables us to have far more brain surface area within our already enlarged craniums. But again, this is between species, not within them.

Even when controlled for size ratio-size, there is a still a matter of efficiency and communication within the brain. Women and men have different levels of white and gray matter but each sexes uses their brain differently to achieve similar IQ test scores [cite]. As no differences are found in average IQ scores between males and females, it appears that size alone is not enough to predict intelligence.

The surface area matters, so the wrinkly brain is better, than smooth.

I’ve always wondered this about dogs, because they’re the same species, but their sizes vary so much. Some breeds are known for their intelligence, but for the most part, a mastiff doesn’t seem to be any smarter than a dachsund.

If we assume bigger means smarter, then we should also assume bigger (body) means faster (runner), or bigger (body) means more endurance, etc.

The brain is not a random collection of cells, it is a structured collection of cells and that structure makes all of the difference in the world whether that brain is an Einstein or a brain that is unable to control even the most basic body functions.

While number of cells and connections makes a difference by setting upper limits of information storage and state, the structure is probably more important.

Size helps for sure. I can’t help but notice over the last several decades that many low paying positions are extremely dominated by shorter men while those who direct them are dominated by taller men. Haven’t noticed this with women though. I do suspect reasons other than relative intelligence though, having to do with prejudicial perceptions

I don’t think this is true at all. I recognize the point your trying to make, but I believe it’s more because the tall people have felt “respected” since they hit their growth spurt earlier and the smaller people wouldn’t mess with them because they know they’d get their ass kicked if the confrontation turned physical.

That also explains away your “I’ve only noticed it with men”. Think back to the high school jungle, the skinny, pale nerdy kids couldn’t exactly exert any authority because they douche-bag jock would immediately put them in their place.

Or so says the 130 lb, 26 year old male typing this at this very moment. (Luckily, I was higher up on the social popularity scale in high school, and so didn’t have to deal w/ as much bullshit as the REALLY nerdy kids. I knew plenty of skinny, nerdy kids who were buttloads smarter than the 6’+ guys who grew up to be managers.

Nitpick: brain size is roughly correlated to intelligence between mammalian species. Once you get outside of mammals (and in particular, invertebrate) even a rough correlation falls apart.

The o.p. is basing his question upon a premise that is deeply flawed, i.e. that intelligence (however once cares to define or measure it) correlates linearly to brain size. This is simply not true.


There have been many studies that show that tall people are paid more than shorter ones, so there’s something to what he says. Google “taller people paid more” and you can find a lot of commentary on them - along with claims that taller people are smarter too. hmm.

In order to prove that larger brain = higher intelligence, I think you first have to accept that larger body = requires same amount of brainpower to regulate, therefore more surplus brainpower to spend on intellect.

See, I don’t buy that premise: a mouse has a fraction the brain capacity, but it’s also a much simpler organism, with fewer nerve endings to monitor, than a cat, dog, horse, or human.

If brain size were equivalent to intelligence, elephants and whales would rule the earth.

An example brought up by Richard Dawkins:

Oliver Cromwell had an unusually large skull with over twice the cranial capacity of that of Nobel Prize winner Anatole France, whose skull was rather towards the small end of the normal distribution for human skull sizes. While Cromwell was no dummy, I don’t think you can definitively state that he was a greater intellect than Anatole France. In fact, it might be easier to argue the other way around, though I wouldn’t want to do that, either.

As suggested, there MAY be some validity to average brain mass divided by average body mass as a VERY rough guide for comparing the intelligence of different species. Even that’s questionable, and for comparing individuals of the same species, it has no validity at all.