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.
It was quite an elaborate hoax with an extensive research document (containing grammar errors) and a very convincing website to back it up. There is no clue at this stage who was behind the hoax. In the study AptiQuant said...
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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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.