Study links IQ with choice of browser; guess who scores lowest

The next time you’re trying to impress people at a party, don’t let anyone know if you use Internet Explorer 6. According to a recent study, it might mean you’re near the bottom of the cognitive scale.

AptiQuant, a psychometric consulting company based in Vancouver, gave free IQ tests to more than 100,000 people online and then grouped average scores according to the browsers people used when taking the tests.

The results: IE users, particularly those using older versions, scored significantly lower than users of other browsers. IE 6 users scored slightly over 80, IE 7 users just under 90 and IE 8 users just over 90.

Firefox and Chrome users did better, averaging scores around 110, Safari users slightly higher than that, and average scores for Camino and Opera users topped 120.

But all is not lost for IE users — those who use IE with Chrome Frame also scored above 120.

Aside from possibly creating a new competitive status area (“Why, indeed I saw that report; it was the first thing I noticed when I opened my Opera browser this morning.” “At our preschool, children use only the Camino browser, of course. To check their pre-calc scores. While listening to Mozart.”), what does this say about browsers and their users?

In the introduction to its report, AptiQuant states, “Because cognitive scores are related to tech savviness, we hypothesized that choice of Web browser is related to cognitive ability of an individual.”

Of course, there are other factors, such as economic ones, that could determine which browser someone uses. We make no pretense to being a psychometric consultant — or, for that matter, to having any real idea what a psychometric consultant is — but the determining factor seems to be the age of the browser, more than the type.

The IQ scores rise with each newer version, and IE users who go the Chrome Frame route are up there in Opera/Camino territory. Also, in a similar test in 2006, IE 6 and IE7 users were much smarter, with average scores over 100 — higher at the time, in fact, than Opera scores.

It makes sense that people with higher IQs are also the type who look for something new and different, whether browsers or anything else.

Another factor could be the sample sizes. IE has fallen a long way from when it held about 95 percent of the market, but it’s still the dominant browser if you count all versions together.

Estimates these days put its share at about 55 percent (and falling), with Firefox at about 22 percent, Chrome at 11.5, Safari about 6.5 and Opera a little over 2 percent. Camino, an open-source browser for Mac OS X users, doesn’t register in these surveys, apparently being lumped in with the “other” browsers.

A report such as this will no doubt lead people to have a little fun at Microsoft’s, or at least IE’s, expense. The report states, “Individuals on the lower side of the IQ scale tend to resist a change/upgrade of their browsers,” and at the moment, that points to IE users.

The potential bright side is that the bad publicity could prompt more people to be done with IE 6, which, as Stan Schroeder points out at Mashable, has always been a Web developer’s nightmare.

That depends on IE 6 users giving up their resistance to change, but eventually even they might see the wisdom, as it were, of a browser switch. If nothing else, it could be something to brag about at parties.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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