Guy Debord wore glasses. Jean Paul Sartre wore glasses. Perhaps they strained their eyes reading so much critical theory. Woody Allen, Malcolm X. Bertrand Russell. James Joyce. These were intelligent men prized for their brains over the physical and superficial. There is a media archetype of the glasses-wearing intellectual.
As a sign of learning, they were potent enough to provoke Pol Pot into executing spectacle wearers in the Khymer Rouge regime. This started in the playground. Fifty percent of children wearing glasses in English schools are bullied.
Relationship between Spectacles and I.Q.
Children with myopia (near sightedness) may have higher intelligence quotients (IQ’s) according to a recently published literature review on the topic.Â Â Regardless of the IQ association, children with myopia attain higher educational achievements than their peers.Â Conversely, the same review mentions that children with hyperopia (far-sightedness) have lower IQ’s and poorer school performance.Â The perception of intelligence in glasses wearers is strong enough that people are recommended to wear spectacles to job interviews.
But why do we see specs wearers in a brighter light? What makes glasses a sign of smartness? Surprisingly, the notion that people with myopia are more intelligent and open-minded is backed up by scientific study, and there is some genetic correlation. Whether this is true or not, the social stereotype is ingrained deeply in our culture.
Theories on Why People who Wear Glasses Are Smarter..
One proposed theory is that damage to the occipital lobe in the brain may cause an overcompensation in the logic centre in the frontal lobe. But the evidence is hazy. In fact, there is little around, surprisingly. Theories on the origins of this association are varied but unsubstantiated. One possible idea is that more people need glasses than have them, and those that do wear them function better. One idea for the etymology of the smart specs wearing archetype is that when glasses first appeared few people had them, and those that did needed them to read. Other people who needed glasses but didn’t read wouldn’t have had them, so the bookish glasses-wearer is an ingrained stereotype.
If children see glasses-wearers as nerds, then they may feel adrift from the herd. Self-perception is defined by others and they may take on board an image of themselves as intelligent but not cool. Seeing themselves as a ‘nerd’ they may start reading more and spending time studying when other people are hanging out. Perhaps teachers treat their spectacled pupils differently, asking them to answer questions more and stretching their intelligence. If this sounds sketchy it is â€“ there’s little evidence on the subject so all theories are there for consideration.
All in all, it’s hard to dismiss the ‘people who wear glasses are smarter’ as a fallacy, but then again, there’s little strong evidence for it either. It’s an interesting cultural phenomenon, and just possibly more.
- Czepita D, Lodygowska E, Czepita M. Are children with myopia more intelligent? A literature review. Ann Acad Med Stetin. 2008;54(1):13-6; discussion 16.
Written by Omar, who has been wearing spectacles for the last ten years, and likes being thought of as more intelligent!