Cognitive elite

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The cognitive elite of a society, according to Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, are those having higher intelligence levels and thus better prospects for success in life. The development of a cognitive elite during the 20th century is presented in their 1994 book The Bell Curve. In this book, Herrnstein and Murray propose that the cognitive elite has been produced by a more technological society which offers enough high skill jobs for those with a higher intelligence to fill. They also propose that by removing race, gender or class as criteria the main criteria of success in academic and professional life is becoming primarily based on cognitive ability. In addition, a study published in 2013 by Jonathan Wai supports the claim that higher intelligence levels lead to success in life. He concluded that the elite individuals in society, specifically in American society, like CEOs, billionaires, judges, Senate and House members, "are drawn largely from the intellectually talented, with many of them in the top 1% of education and ability".[1]

Educational psychologist Linda Gottfredson wrote:


The book has met with criticism, as has the cognitive elite concept.[3] It has been claimed that the case has been "wildly exaggerated",[4] and it is based on an intelligence measure that is also criticized.


  1. ^ Wai, Jonathan (2013-07-01). "Investigating America's elite: Cognitive ability, education, and sex differences". Intelligence. 41 (4): 203–211. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2013.03.005. ISSN 0160-2896.
  2. ^ Why g matters
  3. ^ Wilson, Frank Harold (1995). "For Whom Does the Bell Toll?: Meritocracy, the Cognitive Elite, and the Continuing Significance of Race in Postindustrial America". The Journal of Negro Education. 64 (3): 253–266. doi:10.2307/2967207. JSTOR 2967207. It refutes as cultural superstition and social science pornography The Bell Curve's theories on the role of intelligence in the social stratification of postindustrial America. It further refutes Herrnstein and Murray's ideas about the effects of IQ on social outcomes such as poverty, schooling, occupation, and underemployment, and counters the pessimistic public policy proposals their research engenders.
  4. ^ Lemann, Nicholas (1997). "Is There a Cognitive Elite in America?". Intelligence, Genes, and Success. Springer New York. pp. 315–325. doi:10.1007/978-1-4612-0669-9_14. ISBN 9780387949864. Therefore the cognitive elite should be understood as a sociological cartoon with political uses, not a phenomenon to be accepted at face value.

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