Geniuses Commit More Crimes And Get Away With Them, Says Criminologist

By Holly Brockwell on at

University of Auckland criminologist James Oleson has found that people with super-high IQs were more likely to commit most types of crime, and also more likely to not get caught.

For his book 'Criminal Genius: A Portrait of High-IQ Offenders,' Oleson recruited just under 500 high-IQ participants from prisons, top universities and ultra-exclusive IQ societies (even more selective than Mensa, reports Quartz, which rejects 98% of the population) around the world. The group had an average IQ score of 149 (depending on the scale used, the average is around 100).

He questioned the participants about 72 types of crime, and found that for a whopping 50 of these (69%), the high-IQ group self-reported higher rates of criminal activity. They also received "significantly fewer convictions per reported offence," which is a little worrying as one apparently confessed to twelve unsolved murders.

The accepted wisdom from prior studies is that there's a negative correlation between IQ and criminal activity, but Quartz hypothesises that there might be a threshold after which the effect no longer holds true, and in fact the correlation goes the other way.

Of course, there are still caveats. The participants might be lying or exaggerating. They might not be representative of high-IQ people in general (and those in high-IQ societies probably aren't, as Oleson himself comments). IQ might be, as many people suspect, total bollocks. And undoubtedly, 465 people isn't enough data to go on, although that's hampered by the relative rarity of eligible subjects.

Assuming Oleson is right, though, it's not hard to imagine why geniuses would commit more crimes. For starters, they'd have better ideas for elaborate schemes and how to get away with them. Plus high IQ can be just as isolating as low IQ, leaving hyper-intelligent people feeling lonely and disconnected. Finally, those with an ultra-HD view of the world can probably see that many of its laws and systems are inefficient or even counterproductive, and choose defiance.

However, despite fellow criminologist Joseph Schwartz of the University of Nebraska performing research that supports Oleson's, he points out that the levels of crime we're talking about are still nowhere near those performed by people with very low IQs. But maybe that's because they were stupid enough to get caught. [Quartz]

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