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Rocket scientists and brain surgeons aren’t smarter than everyone else: study

By Daniel Otis

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — A team of researchers has attempted to determine if the phrases “It’s not rocket science” and “it’s not brain surgery” are justified.

By comparing the intelligence of 329 aerospace engineers, 72 neurosurgeons and 18,257 members of the public, their new study suggests those in these esteemed professions are no smarter than the rest of us.

“’It’s not rocket science’ and ‘It’s not brain surgery’ are common phrases that describe concepts or tasks that are easily understood or performed,” the neurosurgeon-led study stated. “Although some public debate has occurred as to which pursuit is more difficult, it seems that the two phrases have not been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny.”

The peer-reviewed study was published Monday in the Christmas edition of The BMJ, formerly known as The British Medical Journal. The BMJ’s annual Christmas issue features quirky and lighthearted academic papers.

In this one, researchers used online tests to measure several aspects of cognition, including memory, attention and problem-solving speed. Although equally matched in most regards, they found aerospace engineers showed better mental manipulation while neurosurgeons exhibited better semantic problem solving. Compared to the general population, neurosurgeons could solve problems faster, but had slower memory recall, while aerospace engineers displayed no significant difference.

“It is possible that both neurosurgeons and aerospace engineers are unnecessarily put on a pedestal and ‘It’s a walk in the park’ or another phrase unrelated to a career might be more appropriate,” the study concluded. “It is also possible that other professions might deserve to be on that pedestal, and future work should aim to determine the most deserving group.”​

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Sonja Puzic

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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