Night Owl, Genius, It’s All Madness

There’s this article from Elite Daily that uses a few studies to conclude that “staying up later means you’re more intelligent”. At first, I thought I would let it go, but then I saw the comments and realized I just really want to get this out of the way. I’ll be using this article specifically, because to cover everything would be a small book in itself. 

This isn’t to say anyone who stays up late isn’t smart, and anyone who goes to bed early is better, or anything like that. My focus here is encouraging you, young (I don’t know who visits the site so I swing a wide net with my posts), not so young, wise, gullible, to actually look at the studies linked in convenient, digestible posts. 

We all want reassurance that our habits, whether good or bad, are actually helping our self image. I would love to think my inability to fall asleep without aid is what makes me a little genius in waiting but it’s not. 

Look at where you’re getting the information from. Writers for sites try a lot of stuff to bring in traffic. The title for this article is focusing on your idea of your intelligence. If you think you’re not smart because you go to bed at a reasonable hour, you click to find out what’s going on with that. If you think you are smart because you stay up late, you click for a quick validation, that yes, you are as smart as you think you are. Actual studies are long, complicated collections of data, lots of people skim them. The majority of the post glorifies the night life, and wraps it up in elegant prose. It’s not badly written, but when the majority of the article is just empty flowery speech, you need to be singling out the actual information. Some posts don’t even link the study, thinking that people won’t check them. Check them. Everyone makes mistakes and reads what they want to into studies. 

I have my own personal beef with “Psychology Today”, but I’ll put that aside. The article linked in the post, focuses on childhood IQ. Oh and there’s this “The Hypothesis would therefore predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to be nocturnal than less intelligent individuals.” This and the post’s conclusion are not the same thing. “You’re intelligent so you might stay up later” is not the same as “if you stay up late you’re intelligent”. The first suggests correlation, the second is suggesting causation

The second article linked hardly covers the study by Satoshi Kanazawa so I had to google that myself. Check this out. Within the first page of results, we have “Crap Psychologist”, and several links that hint at controversy because of what he’s found. This doesn’t necessarily mean we discredit him outright completely, but if you were going to write an article about such a grand statement, you might want several studies backing it up. Through the actual study we find this:

Their conclusion? “Our analysis of Add Health data supports the prediction derived from the Hypothesis. Net of age, sex, race, martial status, parental status, education, earnings, religion, whether one is currently a student and the number of hours worked per week, childhood IQ significantly increases nocturnal behavior in early adulthood. More intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.” 

There’s a lot of stuff that contributes to staying up late. Intelligent children are more likely (god that shows up a lot, I wonder what it means….*side eye with head tilt*) to stay up late (which doesn’t mean you’re a genius super baby waiting to be crowned prodigy to beat) and wake up late. (I had to edit this and I really want coffee which leads to sass).

And what did the people conducting the study think of their findings? “The Savanna–IQ Interaction Hypothesis suggests that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to acquire and espouse evolutionary novel values and preferences than less intelligent individuals, while general intelligence may have no effect on the acquisition and espousal of evolutionary familiar values and preferences.” 

Which means that they found people with higher IQs are more likely to deviate from the expected standard. IQs should be taken into consideration when performing future studies. 

Never mind them quoting Esquire as a valid source for more sex at night. I haven’t had nearly enough coffee to deal with that. The last problem I’m going to point out is it doesn’t matter when you go to bed, it’s what you do with your conscious time that counts. If you waste those night hours drinking heavily, staring aimlessly into space or doing nothing productive, staying up late doesn’t mean you’re smarter. Same thing with being awake during the day. Interacting with the world around you (or in front, sup StumbleUpon) and giving a shit about your interests, wanting to be informed and intelligent that’s what makes you smart. 

My point is double check everything. In the last six months alone we’ve seen even the most trustworthy news sites get information wrong. This doesn’t mean you should never read them, but take into consideration:

1. How biased something is. Does it sound like they’re trying to sell you something instead of tell you something? 

2. Where the information is coming from. Everything is like a game of telephone. Find the original source. 

3. Look on the bright side, you can only get smarter from reading deeper into things. 

There. Now I can sleep peacefully again knowing, I tried to right this thorn in my side. Was it useful? Did I explain it so wonderfully you want to Join the Exploration Party? Good. Click that linky business for more questionable musings from the dark side. Or follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube for the updates on Goth Land. 

Until next time, 


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