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The cognitive elite of a society, according to some social science researchers, are those having higher intelligence levels and thus better prospects for success in life. The development of a cognitive elite during the 20th century is presented in the book The Bell Curve written by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray and published by Free Press Paperbacks in 1996. The Bell Curve proposes that the cognitive elite has been produced by a more technological society which offers enough high skill jobs for those with a higher intelligence to fill. The Bell Curve also proposes that by removing race, gender or class as criteria the main criteria of success in academic and professional life is becoming primarily based on cognitive ability.

Educational psychologist Linda Gottfredson wrote:

Differences in intelligence matter. For members of the cognitive elite to maintain otherwise is like the rich arguing that money does not matter. Differences in g affect the lives of individuals and families. They help shape the social order and limit our ability to reshape it. [1]

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