Intelligence and Empathy in Vegetarians

May 31, 2010

A neurological study published last week showed more empathy-related brain function in vegetarians than in meat eaters when both groups were presented with scenes depicting suffering. PsychologyToday.com has published two blog entries this week: one about intelligence in vegetarians, and the other in response to the empathy study.

In evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa Kanazawa’s post on intelligence, he cites a study showing that vegetarian women have a childhood IQ on average 7 points higher than the childhood IQ of omnivorous women. Vegetarian men are pegged with a childhood IQ 10 points higher than the childhood IQ of omnivorous men. Kanazawa’s blog post offers some strong analysis explaining why these IQ differences may exist.

The empathy study didn’t really grab my interest, nor did it grab social psychologist Daniel R. Hawes, and he nicely explains why:

Whatever the case, showing that Vegetarians are possibly more empathetic to the suffering of others is much less interesting to me than simply exploiting another opportunity of pointing out the sheer ridiculousness of current meat eating (and production) practices. Besides the well-documented health benefits of a Vegetarian diet, current rates of meat consumption are clearly incompatible with for our own long-term survival as a species. Hence, vegetarianism might be much more of an act of compassion to yourself than it is towards others.

Interesting findings, but it’s tough to apply this information to activism.

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