LONDON — Many people have heard the phrases “It’s not rocket science” or “It’s not brain surgery” — but what do they really mean? While the expressions place these professions on an intellectual pedestal, are rocket scientists and brain surgeons truly brainier than the ordinary person? A new study reveals the answer is actually no.
Researchers in London have found that the average person is just as intelligent as an aerospace engineer or a neurosurgeon. Their study set out to test whether both phrases actually hold up when scientists compared people in these jobs to members of the general population. The findings reveal that the phrase, “It’s a walk in the park,” is probably a more appropriate expression when someone wants to say a task will require little intelligence.
To help settle this battle of wits, study authors compared the intelligence of 329 aerospace engineers and 72 neurosurgeons to 18,257 people from the general population. All of the participants completed an online exam that measures six different fields of cognitive ability. These include spanning planning and reasoning, working memory, attention, and emotion processing abilities.
The team also accounted for each person’s left or right handedness and their years of experience in their specific career during the exam.
Rocket scientists: They’re just like us!
The results reveal that the rocket scientists and brain surgeons displayed the same levels of intelligence, but differed in two specific areas. Aerospace engineers displayed better mental manipulation skills, while neurosurgeons had better semantic problem-solving skills.
In comparison to the rest of the population, these brainy individuals scored nearly the same as the average person. Aerospace engineers showed no significant differences in intelligence, while neurosurgeons were only faster at solving problems. However, neurosurgeons actually displayed slower memory recall speed than an average person.
Although the results are observational and don’t account for the entire world population of rocket scientists and brain surgeons, researchers believe their findings show that the stereotype of these jobs being out of reach for many people (in terms of intelligence) is untrue.
So, the next time you face a task that won’t pose much of a challenge, remember, it’ll be “a walk in the park” because you’re just as intelligent as a rocket scientist.
The findings are published in The BMJ.