A study of government records in Britain has shown that Scottish soldiers who gave their lives defeating the Third Reich during WWII were more intelligent than those who survived.
Study leader Ian Deary, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, revealed that the 491 Scots who died had achieved an average IQ score of 100.8 in IQ tests administered to them at age 11.
He also revealed that several thousand survivors, who had taken the same test that was administered to all Scottish children born in 1921, averaged 97.4.
The researcher highlighted the fact that several previous studies had suggested that smart people normally lived longer than their less intelligent peers.
Deary said that the unprecedented demands of the second world war, which was fought more with brains than with brawn compared with previous wars, might account for the skew.
"We wonder whether more skilled men were required at the front line, as warfare became more technical," New Scientists magazine quoted him as saying.
For their research, he and his colleagues study melds records from Scottish army units with results of national tests performed by all 11-year-olds in 1932. The tests assessed verbal reasoning, mathematics and spatial skills.
"No other country has ever done such a whole-population test of the mental ability of its population," Deary said.
The researchers' analysis showed that low-ranking soldiers accounted for three-fifths of all deaths, and their IQs measured by their childhood tests averaged 95.3.
They said that officers and non-commissioned officers made up for about 7 per cent and 20 per cent of war deaths respectively.
Officers scored 121.9, bringing up the average IQ for those who died. Non-commissioned officers scored an average of 106.7.
"We also wondered whether there was an overall small tendency for more intelligent soldiers to want to do the job well, perhaps meaning they ended up in more threatening situations," Deary said.
Phil Batterham, an epidemiologist at Australian National University in Canberra, is perplexed as to what aspect of intelligence might have increased the soldiers' likelihood of dying in the war.
"One could hypothesise that the association between greater intelligence and higher war-related mortality might be driven by the more crystallised verbal abilities, leading to greater leadership roles," as opposed to other forms of intelligence, he said.
A research article describing the study has been published in the journal Intelligence.