Discover more from The Defeat Of COVID
Was it smart to accept or to reject the COVID vaccines?
What a Swedish study found to be “smart” may reflect pressures for social acceptability rather than intelligence per se.
COVID vaccines used in Sweden included Janssen, Astra Zeneca, Novavax, Moderna, but primarily Pfizer by far.
Study authors Elinder et al considered 750,000 Swedish men aged 42 to 59 who had served in the military in youth; the authors examined the veterans’ scores on intelligence tests given at about age 18. Those scoring highest in the past had a COVID-vaccination rate of 80% at mean 50 days after COVID vaccine availability, whereas those in the lowest scoring group arrived to the 80% rate at 180 days, as the authors show here:
The Elinder study findings are surprising given the following especially high-risk factors of the COVID vaccines, which should have been well-known to the well-informed. Even the possibility of any of the following should have elicited hesitation to accept the novel medication. Previously known risks of the mRNA injections include (but cannot reasonably be limited to):
1) The novelty of mRNA in human therapeutics;
2) MIT and Harvard findings that RNA can influence or change human DNA;
3) The previous failure of all prior coronavirus vaccines;
4) The already known hazards and toxicity of the cationic lipids that enveloped the COVID vaccines.
As the public later learned of some of the above problems, and saw the lack of efficacy and even negative efficacy from real time experiences, demand for the COVID vaccines dropped precipitously in Sweden and other countries. Moderna was suspended there by October 2021, and Sweden donated 722,000 doses of unwanted vaccines to other countries. (The Swedish government’s press release about that shows some confusion regarding the actual numbers.)
Then we have the surprising finding that those who scored highest on an intelligence test were earliest to jump on board with the novel medical procedure.
But the study authors ignored what I believe to be the key variable. Surprisingly, the study’s critics also seem to be ignoring it. Both Eugyppius, the pseudonym of a college professor in Germany, and journalist Alex Berenson attribute the puzzling findings to inadequately considered outliers with regard to performance on standardized tests contrasted with typical test-takers.
Berenson asserts that moderately smart people took the COVID vaccines, but that the extremely smart, IQ > 130 did not.
Eugyppius argues essentially that the ultra-intelligent knew better than to take the COVID vaccines but tend not to have as much public influence as the next tier down of test takers. This is presumably due to the unpersuasive nature of their esoteric ideas and language, and their very small numbers, getting drowned out in public forums, etc., and that “midwits” carry the day and establish policy, due to their greater numbers, persuasive abilities and influence.
There is a problem with the correlation that neither Eugyppius nor Berenson picked up on, although Eugyppius alluded to and then mostly dismissed it. That is, test-taking and success at test-taking are not entirely a measure of discerning truth, because test writers are fallible humans. Therefore, the successful test-taker can be someone who more cleverly discerns, whether from test-taking experience or social intelligence, what it is that the test writer is looking for, what that author or teacher wants to hear, and the type of conformity that the test writer is seeking – and is seeking to reward - in the test-taker.
We have all seen test questions like the following:
Choose the best answer. Vaccines are:
a) Important to pediatricians’ work with sick children
b) Irrelevant to human diseases
c) The greatest life-saving health intervention in history
d) Developed and produced for profit
The “smart” test taker will choose c) in order to please the test writer, whether believing it or not, and perhaps even knowing that human life expectancy greatly extended after adopting indoor plumbing and sanitation of water systems, but not closely following widespread use of specific vaccines. The other answers a), b) and d) give off a whiff, to the experienced test taker, of not what the test writer is probably hoping to see.
That is, there could well be a missing intermediate variable that may help to put the surprising findings of the Swedish study into perspective. It may be thought of as a social conformity index. What if the most intelligent appearing stratum of youth are saddled with the highest or most rigid expectations from their culture and from their immediate milieu, school, family and so forth? Such youth may be expected to go on to more, higher and more visible achievements throughout the remainder of their lives than those who score lower on tests, if only due to the expectations of others. They may also be more motivated, or pressured, to take practice tests, in which reasoning tactics may be practiced. In the US, the LSAT, law school admission test, emphasizes reasoning skills, and most test takers improve their scores with repeated attempts.
What would we find if we looked at an expectation index, where those who score high on cognitive tests at age 18 may be expected to pursue greater conformity to commonly expected norms than those who do not face such rigid demands? The former will feel the effects of more, and more intense, expectations of lifetime performance. This I think confounds the problem of assessing behavior three decades after a cognitive test.
Hofer et al found a positive correlation between conformity and self-reported grades, whereas hedonism correlated negatively with grades.
But in which direction was cause and effect? Did a drive for conformity motivate Swedish adolescents of decades ago to pay attention, study and conform to expectations that might at some point be reflected on a standardized test, carrying those same qualities later into adulthood? Or does the successful test-taker have the smarts to notice which way the wind is blowing, and to fall in line with, and want to fall in line with, and learn to care strongly about, social norms, to not be the dreaded social outcast? Who receives greater pressure to do this: the physician or the plumber?
Another (paywalled) study, by Vecchione and Schwartz, showed that the personal quality of conformity correlated with higher grades. Two sub-types of conformity in that study were conformity to rules and conformity to social expectations. These each correlated with higher academic grades. Adolescents who value conformity comply with expectations.
Both of those types of conformity were urged to a fever pitch during the COVID era, in both carrot and stick respectively. That is, ‘Get the vaccine to show your love for others,’ and ‘Get the vaccine or else risk losing your job and other important things.’ Schwartz had shown in a 1992 text, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, that conformity suppresses impulses that are likely to violate norms or social expectations or to upset or harm others.
Weren’t those the very same horrors of the COVID era? Don’t violate norms or social expectations. Don’t upset or harm others. Remember Grandma, for heaven’s sake.
The Swedish study authors, Elinder et al, looked at confounding factors, but they missed the conformity or social acceptability drive among those who are considered or known to be intelligent, which is admittedly hard to quantify. The confounding factors Elinder et al examined were far more concrete: marital status, parenthood, education, income and locale, as well as a comparison of twin pairs. Of those criteria, education made the biggest difference, reducing the relationship between cognitive ability and vaccination by 30%.
I think critics have missed the major problem with the Elinder study. Although measuring it is nearly impossible, if we examine the drive for conformity to rules and social expectations, then the Swedish results make more sense.
Thanks for reading The Defeat Of COVID! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.