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Rocket scientists are not smarter than others

No one can fire a missile. But space engineers don’t seem to be exceptionally smart. Photo gallery. Photo: Esrange/TT

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Brain surgeons and rocket scientists are often taken as examples of particularly intelligent professions. But we can stop that, according to a scientific study.

The problem-solving ability of brain surgeons and rocket scientists is no more acute than average, according to the study, which was published in the medical journal. BMJ Referred to in medicine today.

The British Medical Journal Christmas publishes studies that are not of a world-changing nature.

However, my research team has gone to the bottom of the question of whether neurosurgeons and rocket scientists really make up the elite chain of problem-solving.

In other words: Is there a basis for stamping out simpler tasks like “This is not a rocket research”?


The researchers, via various specialized and closed channels, recruited 748 study participants. The majority (600) were aerospace engineers and a small group of neurosurgeons, all active in Europe, the United States and Canada. The participants then had to take intelligence tests to determine things like logical reasoning, spatial ability, working memory, and concentration.

In the end, the researchers analyzed response data from 410 participants, and compared these results with results from the general public – a large group of Britons who took the same test.

The result: neither neurosurgeons nor astronomers demonstrated exceptional abilities compared to the average population. The researchers noted only two important differences: Neurosurgeons were faster at solving problems, but they were slower on memory tests.

Take advantage of Latin

Compared to each other, neurosurgeons have proven to be much better than aerospace engineers at understanding words and reading, but this may be due to the fact that a higher percentage of brain surgeons had English as their mother tongue. Surgeons may also have benefited from their knowledge of Latin and Greek from medical studies.

The researchers concluded that as long as it’s not about solving problems quickly – neurosurgeons have proven to be extraordinarily good – there is no reason to lift any of the groups to the sky. Neither brain surgeons nor rocket scientists have exceptional abilities.

But the researchers added that the study has its limitations. The test participants do not represent neurosurgeons and aerospace engineers from around the world. It is also possible that the control group does not constitute a cross section of the population. The people in the group were not selected but wrote the test voluntarily and were mostly college-educated.

Anna Lina Wahlstrom / TT

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