A widely reported “study” showing Internet Explorer users had lower IQs than users of other browsers is looking suspiciously like a hoax.
The story originated with a press release from what apparently is “a Vancouver based Psychometric Consulting company” named AptiQuant. The story received widespread coverage as fact, with accompanying comment from writers. (For the record, GeeksAreSexy linked to the original press release but didn’t add any additional editorial text.)
According to the press release and accompanying data, the company conducts psychometric testing and, as an experiment, put up an IQ test which more than 100,000 people took. It then cross-referenced the results with the browsers used by each participant. In theory at least, 100 should be the median (not mean) average across the general adult population, with 95 percent of people scoring between 70 and 130.
It supposedly turned out (as illustrated above) that Firefox, Chrome and Safari users scored roughly in the same region, with Opera users averaging a score of over 120, but Internet Explorer users averaging below 100, with IE6 users barely topping 80 on average. The “report” concluded that people with lower IQs were less likely to change or update their browsers from the original.
The BBC, which covered the story, has now reported that not only does it seem the AptiQuant site has only recently gone online, but that many of its images are lifted directly from a French research company. Other reports say that AptiQuant also looks to have cut and paste text from the French firm.
The BBC also pointed out that in its original story, which appears to have been taken offline, it quoted a statistics professor who said the IE user test scores appeared “implausibly low.”
The AptiQuant site now claims the company has been threatened with a lawsuit by a group of Internet Explorer users. That certainly smacks of a bogus publicity-seeking story: not only would such a lawsuit have zero chance of success (you can’t libel a group made up of tens of millions of people), but it’s difficult to believe anyone would make such a threat.
Exactly what is real is hard to establish at this point. It’s possible the entire company is an elaborate hoax, perhaps testing media gullibility. Alternatively it’s possible AptiQuant is a genuine attempt to start a business, albeit one made by people with little regard for copyright laws.
Either way, the serious questions about the credibility of the company itself certainly cast doubt on the validity of figures that — as many GaS readers pointed out — were already looking very shaky.