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Brains and Birth Order

Posted February 18, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: Birth order intelligence

This is less of a blog post and more of a memo to my younger siblings. I was right all along. I am smarter than you.

Oldest siblings everywhere are walking around cocksure and vindicated this week thanks to a study from an international team of scientists that determined oldest children perform better on IQ tests.

Scientists from the U.K., the U.S., and Australia observed the behaviors of roughly 5,000 children (through 14 years old) in addition to parental behaviors. According to the observations, oldest children performed better on verbal, reading, math, and comprehension tests than their younger siblings.

The findings seem to be based on simple logic. Because the oldest child typically starts out as an only child, the parents heap extra attention and focus on that child, often stimulating them with thinking activities that help encourage their cognitive development. This extra time and support are responsible for the successful outcomes of the oldest child. When additional children come along, there is less time to spend on developing these skills in younger children.

This extra attention at earlier ages leads to the phenomenon known as “birth order effect,” where older children tend to be better educated and paid better wages later in life.

It is interesting to note that by the time families expand with additional children, parents tend to be more relaxed and less focused on doing everything “the right way.” Less one-on-one time is spent reading to or participating in activities with younger children.

Also of interest is that emotional support had no bearing on the intelligence outcomes of the study. Each child could receive equal amounts of emotional support from their parents and it didn’t affect test results.

So what does this information mean for younger siblings (of course, beyond having to come to terms with what you have probably long suspected)? According to the study, the only difference for younger siblings is that they might have to work harder in life.

So dear siblings, it bears repeating that the hints of my supremacy over the years were not the stuff of imagination.

Has birth order influenced your professional life? Your personal life?

Image credit: Richard Leeming / CC BY-SA 2.0

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#1

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/18/2017 8:48 AM

This would only hint that they submit to testing more freely than their younger siblings....not that they are smarter....The smartest ones hide their intellect to maintain an edge....

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#2

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/18/2017 11:40 AM

So often these studies turn out to be flawed. In a year or so there will likely be a new study refuting this one and showing where their methodology failed. No field seems to be more prone to poorly done studies than so-called 'behavior science'. My first wife was a teacher who specialized in behaviorism and she was constantly complaining that the latest studies on teaching methods were the reverse of what they'd said a year or two earlier. The researchers are often undone by their poor understanding of scientific methods and poor understanding of statistical methods.

Enjoy your momentary gloat, but be prepared to eat crow.

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#7
In reply to #2

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/19/2017 8:52 AM

The same could be said for papers from dieticians.

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#3

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/18/2017 6:45 PM

Read some of the books written by Dr. Kevin Lehman, Tucson, AZ, on this subject, specifically: "The Birth Order" book.

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#4

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/19/2017 12:28 AM

I think I first heard this on the radio a day or so ago. In both cases (the radio and here), I was surprised to hear/see no mention of the fact that the oldest siblings commonly have a significant role in caring for and teaching the younger ones, even if they don't think of it as teaching. At that age, they don't even know what "teaching" is...

Teaching others something that you learned recently is one of the very most effective ways of truly learning something, and making that learning more permanent.

I'm definitely NOT tooting my own horn here, as I am the youngest of three. Fortunately, all three of us did pretty well in our professions, so I'm not complaining.

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#5

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/19/2017 4:29 AM

Being 2 of 9, and braniac of the family, I'm inclined to agree. The abberation of #1 (thick as a plank) may be explained by undue self confidence as a result of over-indulged first baby syndrome.

Astrology may, seriously, be more important. Considr a class of 5 year olds. Those born in September are 25% older than those born in August. They are a bit like big fish in a small pond and tend to take things for granted. The piranah who were born later in the school year have to think smarter. Needless to say, I am a Leo.

We all develop a life script at a failrly young age, and birth order may well play a part in personality. A quck scan of the internet seems to show arguments on both sides. Looking at twin studies didn't make things any clearer.

Unfortunately, you refer to a study of 14 year olds, then make a gigantic leap to professional life. The suggested link between IQ and success in life does not really bear out. It's just as impossible to a link with brain size or height.

Still, I am smarter than my siblings !

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#6
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Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/19/2017 7:51 AM

"Unfortunately, you refer to a study of 14 year olds, then make a gigantic leap to professional life. The suggested link between IQ and success in life does not really bear out. It's just as impossible to a link with brain size or height."

Yep. I got diagnosed with a crazy high IQ about that age (then subsequently was held to extremely unrealistic expectations for it) yet I went on to become a full time slacker with very low life expectations and standards!

What's interesting to me is of all the people I have known in my life the more intelligent ones seemed to be generally less driven to live highly competitive lifestyles that are equated with being successful.

I cant count how many times I have been told, "If I was as smart as you do you have any idea what all I would be doing with my life?"

Only to give the response, "If you were as smart as me then you would know why I have no interests in doing those things."

(Smart people get it but the dumb ambitious ones don't.)

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#13
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Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/20/2017 2:02 PM

I heard recently that Napolian was relatively tall for the era, also that Nelson was a bit of a short dude. Thank gawd no French people are reading this .

A quick check revealed no connection between US presidends and height. Dammit, it's anoter urban myth. I'd explain more, but do not want litigation.

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#8

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/19/2017 11:09 AM

I suspect that all of the scientists involved in this study were first born children who required a tether to support feelings of emotional instability within their respective birth orders.

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#9

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/19/2017 1:00 PM

Benjamin Franklin was his mother's eighth child and his father's fifteenth.

"Josiah Franklin had seventeen children with his two wives. He married his first wife, Anne Child, in about 1677 in Ecton and emigrated with her to Boston in 1683; they had three children before emigrating, and four after. After her death, Josiah was married to Abiah Folger on July 9, 1689 in the Old South Meeting House by Samuel Willard. Benjamin, their eighth child, was Josiah Franklin's fifteenth child and tenth and last son."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin

His older siblings must have been really smart!

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#10
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Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/19/2017 1:36 PM

GA! Ben has always been one of my favorites!

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#11

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/20/2017 7:25 AM

There are so many variables that is hard to quantify. Maybe early on the oldest siblings perform better on tests. Just from their experiences. First to go to school and experience the unknown, and passing their opinions on their younger siblings... What classes are easiest, best teachers so and so forth.

With this said, the younger siblings wait and see. maybe even don't take things as serious by their own experience of have 'the brush cut for them' by the older siblings.

Choosing to take the easy way, not showing their 'hand'. And by hand, I mean intellect or intelligence as to not put the bar too high to having themselves underestimated.

But then again, I could be bias... I am actually, because I am... When one is underestimate... then you already won, if you play your hand out. And that is quite satisfying, especially to older siblings.

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#12

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/20/2017 12:34 PM

Too often, studies are exactly what they wanted them to be.

Everyone is different for an infinite number of different reasons. Trying to categorize the human experience as some six-sigma process is the height of hubris. For every supporting data point, you will find an equal number of exceptions (if you allow yourself).

Heads or tails?

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Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/20/2017 3:25 PM

More times then not,... the results depends on who is financing the study.

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#15

Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/23/2017 4:28 PM

The oldest children typically have to take care of the younger ones, and thus, have to mature a little more quickly, but the youngest ones tend to be more (scrappy) in competing with the older ones...

On the other hand, some of the younger ones tend to be (more) spoiled , and become bratty and go to college (on credit cards...), while other young ones can be more competitively motivated to try to ''go farther'' in life...

Many successful people were the younger siblings in their families, while the older ones were worn down by the (often ungrateful) younger ones...

Six-of-one, and a half-dozen of the other...

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#16
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Re: Brains and Birth Order

02/24/2017 3:20 AM

The tragedy of his brother aside, It's maybe good that President Trump had some older sisters.

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Re: Brains and Birth Order

03/03/2017 12:39 PM

Just as a matter of curiosity, is ''Etherville'' close enough to ''Phlogiston City'' to have been High School Football rivals?...

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Re: Brains and Birth Order

03/03/2017 5:03 PM

How on earth did you figure that ?

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Re: Brains and Birth Order

03/03/2017 5:17 PM

I'll take that as a ''No.''

According to my high school teacher, phlogiston theory was the old theory that when things burned, they gave off a substance they named ''phlogiston'' to explain it, in about 1667...

It competed, somewhat later, with the theory of everything being in the ''ether'' of what came to be thought of as (invisible electrons) about ahunnerdt years ago, or so, as I vaguely recall. (I was very young at the time...)

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Re: Brains and Birth Order

03/03/2017 5:21 PM

My humunculus will reply in due course, if my humours permit.

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Re: Brains and Birth Order

03/08/2017 12:15 PM

To be more historically accurate, it was spelled ''aether'', so please update all your (humours), as well as all your related (humunculi), at your earliest convenience...

Way back, when I was in (engineering school), one of the standard jokes was that, as future engineers, we were trained to write in rambling sentences, and to misspell words, so that we would fit in well with older engineers at the time, but then along came (wordcheck)...

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Re: Brains and Birth Order

03/09/2017 9:48 AM

I have to confess fault on that one, but it's hard for a Brit to follow American spelling norms.

I'll keep my spelling norm, not because it's correct, just because I can. It helps all, if I post Anon everybody will know who it is. Everything has a plus side.

Common practice amongst people I know is to mis-spell anything that might be republished. Makes it easier to detect and track.

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