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Rocket scientists and neurosurgeons are no smarter than the general population

A new study shows that neurosurgeons and aeronautical engineers are no smarter than the general population.

The study, published in the Christmas issue of the BMJ, compared the intelligence of 329 aeronautical engineers and 72 neurosurgeons to 18,257 general population members in the UK, US and Canada, all recruited online.

Participants completed an online test to measure six different areas of cognition, including planning and reasoning, working memory, attention, and emotion processing abilities.

After taking into account potentially influential factors such as gender, hand preference, and experience in related fields, the researchers found that aeronautical engineers and neurosurgeons were equally matched in most fields.

However, the study noted that they differ in two respects. Rocket scientists demonstrated better mental manipulation abilities, such as visualizing and rotating objects in the mind, while neurosurgeons were better at semantic problem-solving tasks such as rare word definition.

Compared to the general population, aeronautical engineers did not show significant differences in any area, and neurosurgeons showed a slower rate of memory recall while solving problems faster than the general population.

Based on the results, the researchers said, despite common stereotypes, all three groups showed a broad spectrum of cognitive abilities.

However, the researchers also noted that the study was observational only and did not represent the global spectrum of aerospace engineers and neurosurgeons.

Referring to another limitation of the study, they said the participants were not balanced for geographic locations, adding that the data may not be representative of the true cognitive abilities of the general population because the test is based on self-selection rather than random sampling.


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