Turns Out, Rocket Scientists and Brain Surgeons Are Not Smarter Than the Rest

It's all about training.
Ameya Paleja
Anybody can become a rocket scientist.gorodenkoff/iStock

In an interesting revelation, a collaborative team of researchers across various institutions in London has shown that rocket scientists and neurosurgeons, who are often held on a high pedestal for their superior intellect are, in fact, no smarter than the general public, BBC reported

When failing to complete day-to-day tasks, one often comes across the term "It's not rocket science". The phrases that have been used by the public at large tacitly imply that rocket science or brain surgery is not a menial job and requires an individual of a higher intellect. Interestingly, it was a team of neurosurgeons and those involved in studying the human brain who decided to probe whether this held true. 

The researchers from King's College, Imperial College, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and St. George's University in London recruited 329 aerospace engineers and 72 neurosurgeons in their study and used the Great British Intelligence Test (GBIT) to verify the claims. The GBIT designed by researchers at the Imperial College is an online assessment that tests cognition across six domains.

The engineers and neurosurgeons were tested in the areas of working memory, emotion processing, attention, ability to recall information, apart from their age, sex, and experience in their field. More than 18,000 members of the public had already taken the test making it easier for the researchers to compare their findings. 

Among the two areas of expertise, the neurosurgeons fared better than rocket scientists in defining rare words and other semantic problem-solving. Rocket scientists beat neuroscientists in attention-related tasks and mental manipulation, such as rotating images, BBC reported. 

However, in what is a surprising finding, neither of the groups was any better than the rest of the public. Neurosurgeons were definitely better at problem-solving but their memory recall was much slower, the BBC report said. Researchers have attributed this to the fast-paced nature of the field that requires neurosurgeons to make decisions rapidly. 

In their conclusion, the researchers state that the two professions have unnecessarily been placed on a pedestal and urge other researchers to determine which is the most deserving profession. 

The study was published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal

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