If, like me, you are a first born, you will be pleased to hear that science has confirmed what we have all long suspected – firstborns are indeed smarter than their younger siblings.
Researchers at Leipzig University wanted to put the age-old question to bed and find out once and for all if birth order and IQ are related.
Unlike similar studies that set out to investigate this burning question, the team at Leipzig had plenty of data to work with. In fact, by pooling data from the US, the UK and Germany they had a total of 20,186 individuals to look at.
They discovered that firstborns are, on average, 1.5 IQ points brighter than second-borns peers. Although it doesn’t sound like much, it is statistically significant – in other words, the conclusion is sound.
But, before we firstborns start swaggering around with our big brains, there is an important caveat to address. As clinical psychologist Linda Blair points out – IQ and intelligence are not the same thing.
“IQ is a limited measure. It depends heavily on good language skills, basic arithmetic and general knowledge, the skills most needed to obtain high marks in exams.
“As such, it’s a good predictor of academic success at school. It tells us little else,” she writes.
Conversely, intelligence is much more complex.
“It is the ability to perceive information, to make sense of it and store it as knowledge, and to have the capacity to apply it in ways that are useful to and/or valued by oneself and others,” explains Blair.
While IQ can be measured with rigid tests, intelligence is much more fluid. It can be expressed through the arts as much as academia.
And then there is plain old common sense, which has little to do with IQ and is arguably more useful (at least on a day-to-day basis). So while the firstborns among us may boast a bigger IQ, we’re not necessarily the most successful family members.
Psychological Therapist Annie Gurton says that since we can’t do much about our birth order, there isn’t much point worrying about how it might influence us.
“You can’t change that, and neither should you try too hard to change who you are. It’s more healthy to relax and enjoy who you have become as a result of your birth order,” she says.
So if your IQ is bigger than your siblings, the best course of action may be to forget all about it. Or, you could just lord it over them for the rest of time; after all, it is rare that science steps in to solve your sibling disputes.