Brain size and cognitive ability: Correlations with age, sex, social class, and race

Abstract

Using data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), autopsy, endocranial measurements, and other techniques, we show that (1) brain size is correlated with cognitive ability about .44 using MRI; (2) brain size varies by age, sex, social class, and race; and (3) cognitive ability varies by age, sex, social class, and race. Brain size and cognitive ability show a curvilinear relation with age, increasing to young adulthood and then decreasing; increasing from women to men; increasing with socioeconomic status; and increasing from Africans to Europeans to Asians. Although only further research can determine if such correlations represent cause and effect, it is clear that the direction of the brain-size/cognitive-ability relationships described by Paul Broca (1824–1880), Francis Galton (1822–1911), and other nineteenth-century visionaries is true, and that the null hypothesis of no relation, strongly advocated over the last half century, is false.

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Correspondence to J. Philippe Rushton.

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We thank E. Hunt, D. N. Jackson, A. R. Jensen, S. Johnson, P. Kyllonen, H. L. Roediger III, E. Tulving, J. Wickett, L. Willerman, and several anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions. This review draws on what we have previously published individually and jointly elsewhere.

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Rushton, J.P., Ankney, C.D. Brain size and cognitive ability: Correlations with age, sex, social class, and race. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 3, 21–36 (1996). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03210739

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Keywords

  • Body Size
  • Cognitive Ability
  • Brain Size
  • Stratify Random Sample
  • Head Size