Internet browser users’ IQ subject of local hoax
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in
Vancouver August 23-29, 2011 issue #1139 High Tech
In late July, a Vancouver psychological testing firm was reporting that
Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) web-browser users had lower IQs than
users of other browsers.
AptiQuant Psychometric reported that it had tested more than 100,000
English-speaking adults, correlating their web-browser use with IQ
results. Given an average IQ of 100, users of the obsolete version 6 of
Internet Explorer averaged just above 80; IE 8 users came in around 95.
Users of alternatives to Internet Explorer – Safari, Firefox and Chrome
– were all a bit above average, with users of the Opera browser scoring
Moreover, the report said, the average IQ of IE users had dropped by
20% since the company’s 2006 survey.
A charitable explanation: since Internet Explorer is the default on
computers running Windows, one might speculate that users who seek out
an alternative are overall mentally perkier than people who accept
whatever is handed to them.
Only one problem: as revealed a few days later, it was all a hoax. No
study, no AptiQuant.
Kudos to the BBC; after initially joining the media frenzy to report
the “results,” the news agency followed up on critical comments added
to their online news item, and took a moment to read the report posted
on AptiQuant’s website – apparently the first media outlet to do so.
(Until recently, you could download and read the report yourself at www.aptiquant.com/IQ-Browser-AptiQuant-2011.pdf.
Now that link - and all links to aptiquant.com point to
The short PDF document should have set off lots of warning bells,
starting with the company’s purported address: 498 Richards Street, in
downtown Vancouver. Stroll to the corner of Richards and Pender: no
The report stated that the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)
test was given to 100,000 test subjects over a four-week period. The
WAIS is a standard test used to measure intelligence, but it takes
several hours to administer and can’t be given online. Using it to test
100 people (one on one) in four weeks would be arduous, to say nothing
It claimed that AptiQuant was founded in 2006 and was now “a world
leader in the field of online psychometric testing.” Yet the company
had (prior to the hoax) no online history, and its web domain had only
been registered in July 2011 by Surrey resident Tarandeep Gill.
Jump past several pages of charts to the conclusion: two brief
paragraphs, the first claimed that people with lower IQs seem to resist
changing their browsers, but that more research is needed before making
any broad generalizations.
The second read: “It is common knowledge, that Internet Explorer
Versions to 6.0 to 8.0 are highly incompatible with modern web
standards. In order to make websites work properly on these browsers,
web developers have to spend a lot of unnecessary effort. This results
in an extra financial strain on web projects and has over the last
decade cost millions of man-hours to IT companies. Now that we have a
statistical pattern on the continuous usage of incompatible browsers,
better steps can be taken to eradicate this nuisance.”
Aptiquant.com later owned up to the hoax, stating that Gill, a web
developer/entrepreneur, was aiming “to create awareness about the
incompatibilities of IE6, and not to insult or hurt anyone.” He
explained he “got this idea when adding some features to our comparison
shopping website, www.atcheap.com, we found out that IE6 was highly
incompatible with web standards.”
(Note that Microsoft, too, is anxious to move users away from IE6 and
older versions of Internet Explorer.)
Listing “signs that should have uncovered the hoax in less than five
minutes” Gil said that he was “really surprised that it took so long”
for people to figure it out.
(Full disclosure: I, too, didn’t read the study until after it was
revealed to be a hoax; when I first heard that the report was credited
to a Vancouver company, I emailed asking for an interview. No one got
back to me.)