The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance



The present research hypothesizes that thinking about one's genetic origin (i.e. ancestors) provides people with a positive psychological resource that increases their intellectual performance. To test this line of reasoning, we manipulated whether participants thought about their ancestors or not (manipulation of ancestor salience), and measured their expected as well as actual intellectual performance in a variety of intelligence tasks. Four studies supported our assumptions: participants show higher expected (Study 1) and actual intellectual performance (Studies 2–4) when they are reminded about their ancestors. We also have initial evidence that this effect may be fuelled by increased levels of perceived control and promotion orientation. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. It is certainly desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors. (Plutarch 46–120 AD) Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.