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Are Rocket Scientists, Brain Surgeons Really Smarter Than Other Folks?

TUESDAY, Dec. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- "It's not rocket science," "It's not brain surgery" -- but just how smart are rocket scientists and brain surgeons, anyway?

There's a good chance you're just as intelligent, a new study finds.

This was an observational study that does not represent the worldwide range of aerospace engineers and neurosurgeons, the British researchers said. But the findings do suggest that folks might be mistaken in placing neurosurgeons and aerospace engineers on an intellectual pedestal.

They had 329 aerospace engineers, 72 neurosurgeons and more than 18,000 people in the general population complete an online test. The test involved six distinct domains of cognition associated with planning, reasoning, working memory, attention and emotion processing.

The results were published Dec. 13 in the BMJ.

After accounting for potentially influential factors such as gender and participants' years of experience in their specialty, the researchers found that aerospace engineers and neurosurgeons were equally matched in most of the domains.

However, aerospace engineers had better mental manipulation abilities, while neurosurgeons were better at semantic problem solving.

When compared to the general population, aerospace engineers did not have significant differences in any of the domains. Neurosurgeons were able to solve problems faster than the general population but had slower memory recall speed, according to Dr. Aswin Chari, of University College London and the British neurosurgical charity Brainbook, and colleagues.

Geniuses did not predominate in either specialty.

"All three groups showed a wide range of cognitive abilities," the researchers said in a journal news release.

The authors suggested that “It’s a walk in the park” or another phrase unrelated to careers might be more appropriate than “It’s not rocket science” and “It’s not brain surgery,” when referring to easy tasks.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more on intelligence.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Dec. 13, 2021

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