Daniel R. Wilmoth Corresponding Author
Cornell University, Department of Economics, Uris Hall 4th Floor, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Received 2 November 2010; revised 27 October 2011; Accepted 27 October 2011. Available online 21 November 2011.
One motivation for trying recreational drugs is the desire for novel experiences. More intelligent people tend to value novelty more highly and may therefore be more likely to have tried recreational drugs. Using data from a national survey, it is shown that intelligence tends to be positively related to the probabilities of having tried alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and several other recreational drugs. Evidence is also presented that those relationships typically disappear or change sign at high levels of intelligence. These patterns persist after accounting for a wide range of personal characteristics.
Past studies of the relationship between intelligence and heavy alcohol consumption have produced mixed results, with some reports of a positive relationship and some reports of a negative relationship. Using a national survey, it is shown that these mixed results may have arisen because the sign of the relationship between intelligence and heavy alcohol consumption is positive when people are young but becomes negative when they are older. This pattern persists after controlling for a variety of personal characteristics, including religion, income and education. This pattern is not driven by differences in college attendance and a similar pattern is observed when the sample is restricted to those who never complete more than twelve years of education.