People Think Their Romantic Partners Are Much More Intelligent Than They Actually Are

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You know… the world of research can be kind of an unsettling place sometimes. When you start turning over rocks, you never know what will slither out from underneath them. When you’re doing proper empirical unbiased research, you ask questions without knowing what sorts of answers you’re going to get.

Some of these answers aren’t what you wanted to hear or expected to hear, that’s for sure. Some of it can be downright unsettling.

But every now and then, I will stumble on a study that’s downright adorable. Wholesome. Uplifting.

Today’s study qualifies. Because it honestly warms my heart to learn that people think their romantic partners are much more intelligent than they actually are. This is actually consistent with a pattern that’s been found in a lot of research that demonstrates that in general people are positively biased towards their romantic partners (big “no duh” there, but look, science looks into things we take for granted in case we’re wrong).

But they decided in this particular study to look at intelligence†  in particular — and found that the pattern held.

In this study, participants were also asked to rate their own performance on a test of intelligence, which was measured by Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices (a non-verbal intelligence test). As was found in many other studies, participants consistently overestimated their own performance — by about 30 points.

But interestingly, they overestimated their romantic partners’ performance on that same test even more. And there was a slight gender difference observed — with women overestimating their partner’s score by about 38 points and men overestimating their partner’s score by around 36 points.

In any event, yes, people think they’re smarter than they actually are, but they think their partners are even smarter than they actually are, and for some reason, that strikes me as the sweetest thing ever.

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† The formal study of intelligence is a rather controversial topic. The concept is not strictly unitary — there are many frameworks that have multiple types of intelligence (for a single example, Gardner’s theory of intelligence). Additionally, historically, many intelligence or aptitude tests have been constructed and administered in ways that are racist and/or classist.  While the instrument used in this study — Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices — was specifically designed to test in a way that was culture-neutral, the checkered history of testing in the field is important to know and acknowledge.

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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