Good news, IE users aren't stupid after all

Mike Halsey MVP
Aug 3, 2011
Updated • Dec 9, 2012
Internet Explorer

Last week we reported, somewhat sceptically I'm happy to say, about a piece of research by a company called AptiQuant Psychometric Consulting, that said that people who used Internet Explorer had lower IQs than people who used other browsers.

The research "measuring the effects of cognitive ability on the choice of web browser" was apparently conducted on 100,000 people who went looking for an IQ test.  As I pointed out at the time the data from this research would have been utterly meaningless, as it completely failed to take into account people using web browsers both at home and at work where they would have had no control over the browser they used.

Now it has emerged that the entire thing was a hoax with the BBC reporting that not just they, but other big media organisations including CNN and Forbes were taken in (not gHacks though I'm happy to say!).

It has emerged that the company website for AptiQuant was only set up recently and that all the staff images had come from a perfectly legitimate, and unconnected, business website for a company in Paris.

The BBC contacted the French firm, Central Test, who confirmed that they'd been made aware that AptiQuant has been using its images with the staff names changed.

The study showed a substantial relationship between an individual’s cognitive ability and their choice of web browser.  From the test results, it is a clear indication that individuals on the lower side of the IQ scale tend to resist a change/upgrade of their browsers. This hypothesis can be extended to any software in general, however more research is needed for that, which is a potential future work as an extension to this report.

gHacks readers too it seems are a savvy bunch with Jakin posting "This is a stupid study.   Intelligent people can choose to use IE or use another browser"  though Betttie said "IMHO, the study is among the most robust I’ve come across."

It can be argued that the reason the hoax was so successful worldwide is because of the venom many people have towards Internet Explorer and the knowledge that some users of Microsoft's browser can be less likely to know about, or know how to find, download and install other browsers.  With the exception of businesses still using Internet Explorer 6, it can be argued that it's these people who are unlikely to even have Windows Update switched on, let alone download a new version of the browser whenever the update service tells them that one is available.

This is not proof of people having a low IQ however, far from it.  Instead this is merely proof that technology is very confusing and difficult to use for many people.  That these people should be considered "dumb" was something that gHacks users seemed particularly keen to attack, and good on you for it.

The BBC sought an alternative view to the research and asked Professor David Speigelhalter of Cambridge University's Statistical Laboratory, he said "I believe these figures are implausibly low - and an insult to IE users."  When the BBC tried to contact AptiQuant on the number provided on their website nobody was available for comment.

Graham Cluley of security firm Sophos commented that "It's obviously very easy to create a bogus site like this - as all phishers know it's easy to rip-off someone else's webpages and pictures."  He went on to add that this is exactly the type of behaviour exhibited by phishers and malware writers.  Though he added that the PDF file from the website containing the research appeared to be free of any malware.


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  1. Ricardus said on August 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I would say IE is definitely a very heavy weight browsers compared to others like Chrome or Mozilla.. But i really love Opera’s features..

  2. SuilAmhain said on August 4, 2011 at 11:08 am


    If you recall your last article was poorly written with grammar, spelling and factual mistakes. You didn’t bother to fix the factual mistakes.

    I would say it’s going to be very difficult to believe anything you say because of your bias and over dependence on MS Word for grammar and spell checking.

  3. Browser Statistics said on August 4, 2011 at 9:51 am

    funny article! So which browser users are supposed to be the smartest?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2011 at 10:14 am

      The answer is none.

  4. Pietzki said on August 4, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Ilev, there you go again regurgitating old cliches… IE is actually better at blocking suspicious downloads than all the other browsers combined! Go and read a pc security blog or something, because your mindset is way out of date..

    1. ilev said on August 4, 2011 at 8:56 am

      @Pietzki. You sure believe a paid for report from NSS ?
      The same result with almost the same numbers !! appeared in NSS’s report regarding IE8 in March 2009 : Can-you-trust-the-NSS-Labs-report-touting-the-benefits-of-IE8

  5. TechLogon said on August 4, 2011 at 1:03 am

    As Mike has pointed out, IE9 is actually good for security and speed. The perennial non-compliance with standards lets it down but that matters to developers – not end users.

    IE8 and earlier should be upgraded (or swap to Firefox/Chrome if you have XP) but Firefox users in particular should not feel too smug about outdated insecure browsers – the FF forums are packed full of people still on FF 3.6 because they don’t like the look of FF4/5.

  6. Kaneda said on August 3, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Believe me when I say that IE users are more stupid, in computing at last. All the techno geeks I now don’t use IE. Moms and others use IE because they don’t know that better (or any) alternative exist.

  7. Mike Halsey (MVP) said on August 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    @ilev What makes you think IE doesn’t support addons? To be honest though addons are what’s killing Firefox and the stripped down approach is what’s given Chrome so much traction.

    @Martin IE9’s not just sufficient, I find it does everything I need a browser to do, very securely. What’s the point in installing Chrome when IE9 does the same job with fewer files and registry entries on my PC to cause problems :)

    1. Scott said on August 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      One reason for using Chrome or Firefox over Internet Explorer is that the code is open. There is less chance that it is doing something other than what you expect or know it to be doing. How can you know what IE is doing while it runs? You can’t. You have to trust that Microsoft is on the up and up and has your best interests at heart. And of course, we all know that they do, right? For that matter, you have to trust them when you use Windows, too. So, you’re right, it makes no difference… on Windows at least.

  8. Evert said on August 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Hmm, just because there is no research to prove it does not automatically mean that IE6 users are _not_ stupid/less intelligent… ;-)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      The same can be said for users who work with different browsers.

      1. ilev said on August 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm

        The same can’t be said. People who know that there are other browsesr, more secure, with more options (like addons..) can’t be stupid like the majority using IE just because the E represents “E(I)nternet”.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 3, 2011 at 7:10 pm

        Like the people at work who have to use IE for example, right? It is simply not true what you are saying. And Internet Explorer 9 is not a bad browser. For some users, it might be sufficient for all their needs.

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