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Is National Mental Sport Ability a Sign of Intelligence? An Analysis of the Top Players of 12 Mental Sports

Emil O. W. Kirkegaard


Published: 2019/03/01


Research at the individual level shows strong positive relationships between performance in video games and on intelligence tests. Together with evidence of above average IQs of players of traditional mental sports such as chess, this suggests that national IQs should be strongly related to national performance on mental sports. To investigate this, lists of top players for 12 different electronic sports (e-sports) and traditional mental sports were collected from a variety of sources (total n = 36k). Using a log count approach to control for population size, national cognitive ability/IQ was found to be a predictor (p<.05) of the relative representation of countries among the top players for every game except Go. When an overall mental sports score was calculated using a factor analytic approach, the factor scores correlated r = .79 with Lynn and Vanhanen’s (2012) published national IQs. The pattern was somewhat nonlinear such that national IQs below 85 seemed to have no relationship. The games that related most strongly with the general factor of mental sport ability also correlated more strongly with national IQs (r = .94). The relationship was fairly robust to controls for geographical region (coefficient 74% of the original in chosen model specification).

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