Thursday, September 11, 2014
IQ in decline across the world as scientists say we’re getting dumber
This is a generally good article below but it needs a little more background. In particular, one needs to know why IQ scores rose for most of the 20th century (the "Flynn effect"). The evidence seems to converge on more schooling. As people got more and more schooling (as they mostly did throughout the 20th century) they learned more and more test-taking strategies and that helped when they did IQ tests. But that process obviously had its limits and that limit has now generally been reached. Now that the Flynn effect has run its course we see what the underlying tendency is -- towards a dumbing down of the population. With dumb women having most of the babies, any other result would be a surprise
FOR at least a century, average IQ has been on the rise, thanks to improved nutrition, living conditions and technology. But now, scientists think the trend is going into reverse.
In Denmark, every man aged 18 is given an IQ test, to assess them in case of military conscription. It means around 30,000 people have been taking the same test for years — and scores have fallen by 1.5 points since 1998.
The pattern is repeated around the world, according to New Scientist, with tests showing the same thing happening everywhere from Australia and the UK to Brazil and China.
The most rapid signs of IQ growth in the US appeared between the 1950s and 1980s, the magazine reported, with “intelligence” rocketing by around 3 points per decade.
The trend for rising IQs was first documented by New Zealand scientist James Flynn, and is known as the Flynn Effect. It has been attributed to advances in health and medicine, as well as ever-expanding technology and culture forcing us to contend with a multi-layered world.
Now, the theory is that in developed countries, improvements such as public sanitation and more stimulating environments may have gone as far as they can in terms of increasing our intelligence.
The first evidence of a dip in IQ was reported in Norway in 2004, closely followed by similar studies emerging from developed countries including Sweden and the Netherlands.
Dr Flynn has said that such minor decreases could be attributable to reversible issues with social conditions, such as falling income, unhealthy diet or problems with education.
But some experts believe our IQs are in a state of permanent decline.
Some researchers suggest that the Flynn effect has masked an underlying decline in our genetic intelligence — meaning more people have been developing closer to their full potential, but that potential has been dropping.
This has been attributed in some quarters to the fact that the most highly educated people in society are having fewer children than the general population.
It is an uncomfortable thought, and one that strays worryingly close to controversial theories on genetic modification and even eugenics.
Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster in the UK says our IQ has declined by 1 point between 1950 and 2000, which seems very small.
But Michael Woodley, a psychologist at Free University of Brussels in Belgium, said even such a small drop can mean a dramatic reduction in the number of highly intelligent people — those geniuses who are responsible for our greatest innovations.
In fact, Dr Woodley says our IQ has been in decline since Victorian times, while Professor Gerald Crabtree says it happened as soon as we started to live in densely populated areas with a steady supply of food — 5000 to 12,000 years ago.
The importance of IQ trends is up for debate in itself, since IQ tests can be an unreliable measure of intelligence, skewed by education and preparation for solving certain kinds of problems.
Furthermore, many experts say there are multiple forms of intelligence. While academic intelligence is important, it is often people with other qualities, such as determination and self-control, who are most successful or socially productive.
When we say we are becoming more intelligent, are we simply learning different ways of thinking?
As Dr Flynn himself said: “There are other intellectual qualities, namely, critical acumen and wisdom, that IQ tests were not designed to measure and do not measure and these are equally worthy of attention.
“Our obsession with IQ is one indication that rising wisdom has not characterised our time.”
Posted by jonjayray at 3:38 PM