Over the last seven decades, certain college majors have steadily been associated with more intelligent students. Since 1946, five major exams that quantify intelligence (including ACT, SAT, and GRE) have shown a steady pattern in which students who choose majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are generally more intelligent.
Education and agricultural majors, on the other hand, have generally tested as less intelligent than their hard-science peers. More interesting than the data itself (since the numbers do not speak to any individual’s intelligence — extremely bright people can be found in every field) is what the numbers tell us about our national educational priorities and our expectations of achievement.
Behind the numbers of any achievement study is an implication of rank, that we are all competing for the top slots, which naturally go to those who are the best and brightest. Well, it’s all a myth, says psychologist Madeline Levine:
Studies that demonstrate a correlation between college major and intelligence cannot account for choice, and we all choose a college major (some of us choose several different majors during our time at college). It may be that since STEM majors require more raw computational brain power, STEM students are more likely to succeed on tests that measure for that aptitude.
As the studies indicate, the intelligence associated with a business major has increased in the last few decades, suggesting that the major has steadily drawn more talent as national priorities have shifted in its favor (before the financial crash, nearly 40 percent of business majors at certain Ivy League institutions became traders on Wall Street).
Which majors we choose is also an indication of our national priorities. In South Korea and Finland, for example, teachers are drawn from the top third of college achievers. Not so in the US. America is notorious for giving its educators short shrift, surely resulting in the profession’s inability to draw top talent.
Read more at Quartz.
Photo credit: Shutterstock