Sounds grim, but New Scientist says it’s true. The more intelligent soldiers were the most likely to die in combat:
The unprecedented demands of the second world war – fought more with brains than with brawn compared with previous wars – might account for the skew, says Ian Deary, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. Dozens of other studies have shown that smart people normally live longer than their less intelligent peers.
“We wonder whether more skilled men were required at the front line, as warfare became more technical,” Dear says.
His team’s study melds records from Scottish army units with results of national tests performed by all 11-year-olds in 1932. The tests assessed verbal reasoning, mathematics and spatial skills.
“No other country has ever done such a whole-population test of the mental ability of its population,” Deary says.
It may be that higher IQs translated to better speaking ability – which led to battlefield promotions. Or, it could be that intelligent soldiers tried to do everything just right, which meant they were likelier to wind up in dangerous situations.
I can easily picture the kind of obsessed problem solver who aces IQ tests sitting in a bunker frantically assembling a detonator exactly right without realizing the tanks are only 10 feet away and everyone else has split.
There’s more on the study at the journal Intelligence.