Are the brain surgeons more brainy than others ?

It is a common perception that brain surgeons are more brainy than the rest of general public.

It is also often quipped that rocket scientists are more smarter than general public

How true is it ?

A study published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) looked at the “smartness” of the rocket scientists and brain surgeons.

They assessed the “smartness” by using an online test. The study involved 600 aerospace engineers ( rocket scientists) and 148 neurosurgeons ( brain surgeons).

This online test known as “Cognitron’s Great British Intelligence Test” measured distinct aspects of cognition, spanning planning and reasoning, working memory, attention, and emotion processing abilities.

The brain surgeons had higher scores than the rocket scientists in semantic problem solving. The rocket scientists got higher scores in mental manipulation and attention.

With many other sections of the tests, the brain surgeons and rocket scientists did not do a lot better than the general population !

The study concludes that both neurosurgeons and aerospace engineers are unnecessarily placed on a pedestal with common phrases such as “It’s not rocket science” and “It’s not brain surgery”.

This study does NOT prove the experts do not know much more than general public.

The study does NOT mean that “social media rants” and “conspiracy theories” are somehow right !

Would you let a lay person operate on your brain ?

Technical and Scientific Expertise is still valuable !


“It’s not rocket science” and “It’s not brain surgery”—“It’s a walk in the park”: prospective comparative study
BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 13 December 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:e067883

Guardian. Brain surgeons and rocket scientists no brighter than the rest of us, study finds
Data from 329 aerospace engineers and 72 neurosurgeons suggests they are not necessarily cleverer than general population.
Nicola Davis
Mon 13 Dec 2021 23.30 GMT

BBC. Rocket scientists and brain surgeons aren’t necessarily more clever – study

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