A new study suggests poor eyesight means higher intelligence

Posted by
Grace Allen
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Good news for all reluctant glasses and contact lens wearers – your terrible eyesight might mean that you’re smarter than your average peer

At times, it can feel as if there are many negatives to wearing glasses: they get caught in your hair, they steam up in the bathroom and your vision is seriously impaired if it starts to rain (why has nobody invented tiny windscreen wipers for specs yet, eh?).

However, it seems there are some surprising bonuses, as a new study (the largest of its kind ever conducted) from Nature Communication has recently revealed.

For the study, researchers from the University of Edinburgh analysed cognitive and genetic data from over 30,000 people aged between 16 and 102. Their work uncovered a “significant genetic overlap between general cognitive function, reaction time, and many health variables including eyesight, hypertension, and longevity”.

To put it more plainly, people who are more intelligent are nearly 30% more likely to have genes that would mean that they need glasses. Which means that, yeah, your specs really are a sign of genius.

Dr Gail Davies, of University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, explained: “The discovery of shared genetic effects on health outcomes and brain structure provides a foundation for exploring the mechanisms by which these differences influence thinking skills throughout a lifetime”.

While the data does reveal some interesting correlations, there are no concrete conclusions to be made. However, there’s no denying that glasses-wearers are generally presumed to be smarter than those without.

Scrivens conducted a survey at the beginning of the year which revealed that, surprisingly, 13% of non-glasses wearers were envious of those with prescription eyewear. One in five people were found to perceive those in glasses as ‘more trustworthy’. 

This is backed up by further research about the effects of eyeglasses on mock Juror decisions. Those with glasses are more likely to be perceived as smarter, more dependable, industrious and honest. This is thought to be why defense lawyers often ask their clients to wear glasses when on trial.

Glasses have long been used as a prop in tv and film, signifying a character’s braininess. Rachel Leigh Cook’s somewhat anti climatic ‘makeover’ in She’s All That involved removing her thick frames and lopping off her hair. In The Princess Diaries Anne Hathaway was treated to a similarly predictably transformation.

Frankly, having bad eyesight is an inconvenience and an expense, and if this latest research suggests there’s a silver lining to be had, we’ll take it.

Image credit: Luis Cortez Martinez