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People Are Getting Dumber: The Flynn Effect Goes Into Reverse

Is it genes, or have we "started building a stupidity-inducing environment"?

IdiocracyIdiocracyPeople are getting dumber. So concludes a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): Using military conscription data from Norwegian males born from 1962 and 1991, the authors find that the secular increase in population intelligence observed throughout the 20th century has peaked and has now gone into reverse.

Average IQs, as measured on standardized intelligence tests, increased for most of the 20th century. This astonishing fact was first reported in 1984 by the New Zealand political scientist James Flynn, when he analyzed the trend in U.S. test scores. This upward trend has since been dubbed the "Flynn effect." As a 2014 review article in the Psychological Bulletin notes, "The Flynn effect implies that an individual will likely attain a higher IQ score on an earlier version of a test than on the current version." Flynn's study revealed a 14-point increase in IQ scores between 1932 and 1978, amounting to a 0.3-point increase per year, or approximately 3 points per decade. Subsequent research found similar upward trends across most of the rest of the world.

The new PNAS study finds that the average IQ score for conscripts rose from 99.5 for the 1962 birth cohort to 102.3 for the 1975 cohort. Following 1975, the average score trended down, reaching 99.4 for the 1989 cohort (then rising slightly to 99.7 for the 1991 cohort). In other words, average IQ rose at about the same decadal rate identified by Flynn in the first sets of conscripts and then fell at about the same rate in the second sets. The researchers restricted their analysis to individuals born in Norway to two Norwegian-born parents.

About a decade ago various researchers reported that the Flynn effect had begun to reverse in some countries, with average IQ scores starting to decline again. More recently, some observers have suggested that average IQs are coming down because of dysgenic fertility—that is, because less intelligent people are having more children than smarter folks—or because of lower-IQ immigrants and their children. These trends, they argue, are now beginning to swamp the IQ-boosting effects that improvements in nutrition, education, and falling pathogen stress had during the 20th century.

In trying to figure out what could be going on, the Norwegian researchers took advantage of another IQ trend. First-born children tend to have higher IQs than do later-borns. The Flynn effect tends to narrow the gap between first- and later-borns within families. The researchers found that this was in fact occurring in the pre-1975 cohorts. After 1975, the gap between first- and later-born brothers began to grow. Since siblings share genetics and environments, this "within family" decrease tends to rule out dysgenic fertility or immigration as significant explanations for falling average IQs.

For the 1962–1975 Flynn increase period, the researchers estimate a .2 average annual IQ point increase within families and a .18 increase across families. For the 1975–1991 decrease period, they estimate a .33 annual IQ point decline within families and a .34 decline across families.

"The results show that large positive and negative trends in cohort IQ operate within as well as across families," note the researchers. "This implies that the trends are not due to a changing composition of families, and that there is at most a minor role for explanations involving genes (e.g., immigration and dysgenic fertility) and environmental factors largely fixed within families (e.g., parental education, socialization effects of low-ability parents, and family size). While such factors may be present, their influence is negligible compared with other environmental factors."

If falling average IQ scores cannot be attributed to dysgenic or immigration effects, they must be the result of some environmental effects. But what? The researchers conclude that "our results remain consistent with a number of proposed hypotheses of IQ decline: changes in educational exposure or quality, changing media exposure, worsening nutrition or health, and social spill-overs from increased immigration."

As George Mason University economist Tyler Cowan pithily puts it, "We have started building a more stupidity-inducing environment. Or at least the Norwegians have."

On the bright side, a 2018 review article by Flynn and his University of Otago colleague Michael Shayer reports that America continued to show a steady rate of average IQ gain from 1989 to 2014 at about its historic rate of .3 IQ points per year.

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  • Citizen X||

    (PNAS)

    Uh... hmm.

  • Citizen X||

    Nothing's wrong with it, it just really stuck out at me.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Oh come now!

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    Ard you trying to raise an objection or something?

  • Ben of Houston||

    The Proceedings of the National Academy has the problem that it has very low quality control. If a member of the academy presents or sponsors a paper, it gets published. This leads to them putting forth a lot of excellent papers and quite a number that couldn't pass muster at an elementary school science fair.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    I tried reading the article but I couldn't get past PNAS.

  • Eidde||

    Huh-huh, PNAS.

    Anyway, what were we talking about? Intelligence? I don't know anything about that.

  • Eidde||

    Huh-huh, huh, PNAS.

  • Trollificus||

    I haven't come across such a Beavis and Butthead-inducing article in a very long time.

    And in an article referencing (and having a picture from) another Mike Judge project on the same subject.(dysgenics)

    Coincidence?

    Well, yeah. Ain't that dumb yet.

    ps) also "huh-huh, huh. He said PNAS."

  • Cranedoc||

    PNAS does tend to be quite distracting!

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Or maybe IQ is meaningless and unmeasureable.

  • Cy||

    I was thinking more along the lines of, modern generations are being tested using antiquated tests. Rote memorization isn't as necessary as it used to be. I highly doubt any of the tests involve any technological intuition.

  • Zeb||

    Rote memorization isn't as necessary as it used to be, but working memory is still an important part of intelligence. And as I understand it, that's a lot of what IQ tests are supposed to measure.

    Is technological intuition somehow different from regular old intuition?

  • Cy||

    "Is technological intuition somehow different from regular old intuition?"

    I would argue yes. My father has excellent intuition when it comes to mechanics and wood working. But when it comes to using a cell phone he hasn't touched before, he's a bit more a fish out of water.

    Where as, take my nieces and nephews, it's the opposite. I'd be willing to wager on a lot of those tests, account of the test's antiquated focus, my father would score higher than my nieces and nephews.

  • Zeb||

    So what do you think are the big differences? I don't know a ton about IQ tests, so I'm not sure what you mean by "antiquated focus". The tests are regularly updated as far as I know. And I don't think they require a lot of rote memorization or recall of facts.

    I really don't know. But I always feel like many people are too quick to dismiss things like IQ tests as useless.

  • ||

    But I always feel like many people are too quick to dismiss things like IQ tests as useless.

    Not useless, just narrowly focused. Measuring that which can be measured and ignoring that which can't. "Intelligence" is a much bigger and broader phenomenon than "IQ."

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I've always despised IQ tests because they would think an Egyptian farmer from 4000 years ago as incredibly dumb, but his brain was stuffed full of tedious detail on weather, soil, the Nile flooding, season, stars, everything he needed to be a good farmer. Everyone is like that. Other than Einstein geniuses and can't-feed-themselves adults, what exactly is intelligence? I know people who can't hold a candle to me in some ways, and I can't hold a candle to them in others. How could you possibly measure and compare our IQs?

    It's just a pointless number used to justify eugenics.

  • Zeb||

    How could you possibly measure and compare our IQs?

    By administering IQ tests. I thing some other people make decent points saying that IQ tests measure IQ, not "intelligence" whatever that is.

    But I still say it measures something and isn't completely meaningless. Of course today's IQ tests would give an ancient Egyptian farmer a low score (even if they were literate). But I bet that if you designed one for ancient Egyptian farmers, you would find that some farmers have much higher IQs than others and that they tend to be the more successful.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Yes, my mistake. Meant "measure and compare our intelligence".

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    But I bet that if you designed one for ancient Egyptian farmers, you would find that some farmers have much higher IQs than others and that they tend to be the more successful.

    Certainly. Now switch those two farmers, or any two people, to entirely different jobs, say pyramid project foreman. Who says the IQs would differ the same way? I say they wouldn't. What they measure is far too specific to the tests themselves than to any general notion of intelligence or even IQ.

  • Zeb||

    I think you assume they are more specific than they are. But I don't know enough to say with any certainty, so I'll concede that you may be right.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    What I am trying to say is that whatever they measure is far too specific to times and places, not by intent, but because there is nothing else to measure. Someone who has happened by chance to know more about those kinds of things will have a higher IQ than others. If an Egyptian priest wrote an IQ test, it would measure different aptitudes than would a farmer's test, not because one would have priestly questions and the other farming questions, but because their backgrounds would emphasize different attitudes.

    Imagine two Ph.D. psychologists writing IQ tests. One grew up in a rural area and worked on farm equipment and traveled around his area; the other took buses around the city and took vacations in Europe. Their IQ tests would not ask specific questions about those things, but they would differ in the questions they asked and how the answers were interpreted. It is unavoidable.

  • Unemployed Armenian Tranny||

    'What they measure is far too specific to the tests themselves than to any general notion of intelligence or even IQ."

    Right, cause abstract reasoning, spatial & predictive analysis is completely un applicable to any real life problem solving.

    Get a brain! morans.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "Who says the IQs would differ the same way? I say they wouldn't. "

    Yeah, and actual research says you'd be wrong.

  • Paloma||

    Yup. The concept of IQ came about because someone noticed that some kids developed intellectually faster that others. If a four year old knew as much or could " catch on" as easily as most five year olds, he or she would have an IQ of 120. If a six year old knew as much as a typical nine year old, he or she would have an IQ of 150.

    It's been updated and revised many times, but that's the basic concept.

  • sparkstable||

    That sounds more like a farming aptitude test rather than a general IQ test, then. Most of us would do poorly on it even if by today's standards we had both "intelligence" and "high IQ".

    IQ is a numerical value derived at somewhat arbitrarily deciding answering this question is more significant than answering that question. It's a number... and it correlates with lots of things. But beyond that your IQ score tells you only one thing about you... your IQ score. It is not indicative of that thing in you which is actually causal towards your success in life.

  • VOTE MILES||

    IQ is a numerical value derived at somewhat arbitrarily deciding answering this question is more significant than answering that question. It's a number... and it correlates with lots of things. But beyond that your IQ score tells you only one thing about you... your IQ score. It is not indicative of that thing in you which is actually causal towards your success in life.

    You know the old saw about it being better to say nothing and being thought a fool?

    If you haven't even a rudimentary grasp of the topic, maybe it's a good idea not to proffer your views about it.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "IQ research contradicts my dogmas of faith"

  • Jickerson||

    IQ research straight from the bowels of the social sciences, which are known for being pure trash.

  • Unemployed Armenian Tranny||

    IQ tests do not mesure "rote memorization".

  • SIV||

    Average to dumb people always offer excuses for why they are average to dumb.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    " Rote memorization isn't as necessary as it used to be."

    Yeah, the education establishment thinking that is probably a factor in making us all dumber.

  • Trollificus||

    +1, I forget why

  • Jickerson||

    The "education establishment" has nothing against rote memorization, even if they say they do. The homework assignments, tests, and standardized tests all heavily rely on rote memorization. Our entire school system is an abomination, and always has been.

    In any case, how is treating mathematics and other subjects as a series of facts to be memorized (and then typically forgotten after the test) supposed to encourage understanding and critical thinking skills? It doesn't. No one would argue that no information should ever be memorized, because then your brain would have nothing to work with. But what our schools do and did is completely gloss over giving people a deep understanding of the material in favor of simply having people memorize trivia about the subject, leaving them with poor critical thinking skills and a bad impression of the subjects.

    Math classes aren't teaching people to think like mathematicians. Science classes aren't teaching people to think like scientists. It's a travesty.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    This and the fact that people are getting dumber can be true simultaneously. In my opinion, people are offloading memory skills to electronics. I don't know that that makes people dumber, but it does appear to have some kind of negative effect.

  • ||

    people are offloading memory skills to electronics

    Exactly the argument Socrates made against writing (according to Plato). People in pre-historic times must have been genius!

  • Zeb||

    But this time it's different!

    Of course it's always possible that this time is different. But the number of similar worries in the past does incline one to dismiss the same basic arguments today.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Of course it's always possible that this time is different.

    Truth. It never happened before does not equal it can't happen ever.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    I would say search engines make it very very different this time. The ability to quickly access offloaded info makes it a much more effective stand in for actual memory.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    This time it IS different. I see it first hand. It isn't just the laziness induced by being able to retrieve vast amounts of information anywhere and anytime. So much of what we think of as truth is just a computer simulation. Simulations are literally substituting the thought of a handful of people who write the model for everyone who uses it. The users just treat the output as the output of an oracle, and unlike Delphi this one is good enough for most day to day work.

    The problem is that the users are never forced to develop a deeper understanding of what they're doing. Got a problem? Brute force it through the numerical calculator. Whatever you do, don't attempt to find a closed form solution for the problem or develop a basic physical understanding of what's really(*) going on. Just throw statistics at the problem. JMP will tell you want to do. And this is how we get p-hacking.

    *Yes, yes. Theories aren't facts.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Memory skills aren't intelligence. Looking back at my comment I can see that I didn't make that claim there either. What it looks like to me is that with so much information readily available people are more interested in learning what they want to know rather than what they 'need' to know. This might make someone appear dumb to you if they don't appear to readily know what you think they should know.

  • Zeb||

    Memory skills aren't intelligence.

    If you meansimply being able to memorize and recall lots of stuff, I mostly agree. But if you mean working memory, or the ability to hold ideas in your mind while thinking and synthesizing them, I think that's a huge part of intelligence.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    the ability to hold ideas in your mind while thinking and synthesizing them

    Maybe it's a definition problem because I don't really think of that as memory but rather just as thinking. I understand that short-term memory is involved in the process, I just categorize it differently I guess.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    "Working memory" is like RAM. In that it's how much information you can hold at once basically. Not memory in the long term sense.

  • Zeb||

    I think there two major parts to intelligent thinking, working memory and ability for abstraction. Working memory is like RAM. It's what you are using right now and can quickly access and not necessarily something you will remember at all when your current task is done. The ability to store and recall information long term is something different and I believe happens in different parts of the brain.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Working memory is like RAM. It's what you are using right now and can quickly access

    Then it's not like RAM, it's like CPU cache memory. You can think of computer memory like you would think of an office. Hard drive memory is what's in the file cabinets, RAM is what's on the desk, and CPU cache is what's in your hands.

  • Zeb||

    Fair enough. For people who know less about computers than I do (or who are really old) it's like RAM.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    In any case, Zeb, I don't disagree with you. I just think of it a little differently than the way you do.

  • Trollificus||

    No, that was a fine and accurate distinction. Zeb is also right.

  • ||

    I personally think there are just different aspects of mind/brain that can combine in various ways to make things we collectively call "intelligence."

    My wife and I, for example, are both reasonably "smart," but in very different ways. She has an extremely quick mind, and will come to conclusions that took me years to get to on a simple explanation of a few minutes, but her memory is for shit. I, on the other hand, am a little slow to think things through, but I still remember things I read when I was ten.

  • Paloma||

    It's all pretty interrelated though. In school, some kids are better in math, others in history, others in language skills, etc.

    But I never saw a kid who excelled in math be totally stupid in reading.

  • ||

    This might make someone appear dumb to you if they don't appear to readily know what you think they should know.

    100% agree, and I suspect that there may be some of this in play with these numbers. Human knowledge used to be finite. 150 years ago you could pretty much know everything it was possible for humans to know, at least within various cultural confines, and then you could get together with other people who knew all the same stuff you did and you would be "The Smart People."

    Now "knowledge" is inconceivably huge, diversified, and readily accessible, and you have whole belief communities living among one another who don't share a basic common worldview. It seems like we're more and more surrounded by stupid people (who actually just don't share our basic assumptions and information sets), and the people who make up the IQ test questions are as much in very particularized assumption-bubbles as anyone.

    It's a theory, anyway, that would explain "IQ numbers are going down" in a way that doesn't rely on "we conclude that people are spontaneously getting stupider for no clear reason because this one sort of funky and vague metric has changed."

  • Paloma||

    I do think that stupid people are having more kids, though. Those with higher IQs marry later, have kids later, and a lot fewer of them.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The problem is that we've set up social incentives that make having lots of children a personal mistake, and smart people have less of a tendency to make mistakes.

    If you set things up differently, say by scaling pensions according to how many productive offspring you had, the smart people would figure out that they'd personally benefit by having more children.

    We're currently in an environment that didn't exist for almost all of human history, and haven't evolutionary or socially adapted to it yet. We'll get there in a few hundred years.

  • BigT||

    "After 1975, the gap between first- and later-born brothers began to grow. Since siblings share genetics and environments, this "within family" decrease tends to rule out dysgenic fertility"

    And this is just about when the extreme social safety net went into effect.

  • Trollificus||

    If access to information that once might have been remembered is subject ot internet access and device functionality...yeah, that's a negative effect.

    Ran into this recently when someone needed my wifes' work phone number, which is something (among many other numbers) that for many years would have come readily to mind. I laughed, but then realized I remember my OWN cell number...and no others.

  • Zeb||

    Do you think that's the case?

    I don't think it tells you everything about intelligence, but it does seem to have enough of a correlation with what most people mean by intelligence to at least not be meaningless.

    There is a lot of evidence that a person's IQ stays pretty much the same throughout their adult life, so even if it's meaningless, I think it's still measurable.

  • ||

    I don't think it tells you everything about intelligence

    It measures one very specific way of thinking about things, which is basically abstract mathematical thinking. To modify a phrase from Einstein, to the extent that it measures something objectively measurable, it doesn't really tell you very much.

    And to take Einstein as an example, he likely had an IQ around 200, but most people throughout his life thought he was kind of an idiot in all the ways that actually matter.

  • Zeb||

    I don't know if it's that specific. Aren't there high IQ people who aren't great at math? I've heard IQ measures ability for abstraction and working memory. Which seem like at least prerequisites for intelligence.

    Anyway, I have a high-ish IQ and am good at math, so I'm going to just say that those are the most important things.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    It depends on what you call math. I have a high enough IQ to get into Mensa. I can do arithmetic well and fast but I'm not great with higher level math. Basic Calculus is about as far as I can get.

  • ||

    I have a high enough IQ to get into Mensa. I can do arithmetic well and fast but I'm not great with higher level math

    This describes me as well, but many of us are victims of an incredibly stupid way of teaching math. I took algebra in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grades because while I always got at least 98% of the answers right on tests, I didn't show the work they way they wanted me to. By 10th grade, of course, I hated math with a white-hot passion and pursued it no further until way into grad school. Now I'm rusty and awkward at best when it comes to trig and higher.

    Some of it is innate ability and some is habit. Some parents train their kids for IQ tests while many don't even really know what they are.

    I say it's largely "mathematical" because the abstraction skills that Zeb mentions are pretty much the basic building blocks of math.

    But a classic distinction is made between the guy who can calculate on a piece of paper how far a football is going to go at what speed and trajectory vs. the guy who doesn't need the piece of paper and can figure it out while the ball is in flight. The second guy may not get the abstract concepts as sharply, and wouldn't do as well on an IQ test, but he's the guy you want in the field, not the first guy.

  • Zeb||

    But they guy who can quickly give you numbers for where the football is going to land, and who can also catch the ball while running full speed down the field is even smarter and more useful than either of those other guys.

    I think you are right that a lot of the reason people think they can't do math or hate math is because they are just turned off by it in high school. And you have to have a particular interest in really abstract things to get into higher math (or what I like to call "math"; what you learn in highschool is just calculation). If you aren't interested in it for its own sake it does look pretty pointless.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    This describes me as well, but many of us are victims of an incredibly stupid way of teaching math. I took algebra in 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grades because while I always got at least 98% of the answers right on tests, I didn't show the work they way they wanted me to. By 10th grade, of course, I hated math with a white-hot passion

    Yeah, that sounds almost exactly like my school experience. I was in honors math classes through 11th grade where I ran into a horrible teacher. That pretty much ended it for me.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yeah, that was a problem for me in high school math: They kept asking me to show work I hadn't done because the problems were so simple I was seeing the answers without doing the work.

    Eventually I learned to just figure out the answer, and then reconstruct how somebody else would have solved the problem.

  • ||

    What about if you're able to match a suit and spot bull shit?

    Aren't those important to, right angle boy?

  • Zeb||

    Match a suit? Like clothes? Isn't the point of a suit that it's already matched?

  • ||

    What about if you're able to match a suit and spot bull shit?

    ^ Two things Einstein was famously unable to do.

  • Mark22||

    It measures one very specific way of thinking about things, which is basically abstract mathematical thinking.

    Quite the opposite: IQ is designed to measure non-specific, general intelligence. On school performance, for example, the subject that correlates most closely with general intelligence is not mathematics (g=0.75) but classics (g=0.96). WAIS-R doesn't even have a mathematics subtest.

  • Ron Bailey||

    Z: I agree with you. A thought experiment: I have you talk to 25 people you don't know for five minutes each and then ask you to order them from smartest to dumbest based on your impressions. I am sure that your ranking will be pretty close to the results of an IQ test being administered to those same 25 people.

  • ||

    I'd wager that that is going to depend greatly on what you talk to them about. In terms of what we "traditionally" call "intelligence?" Sure. But what passes for "traditional intelligence" ain't all that.

  • Zeb||

    Well, wouldn't be a particularly hard experiment to set up. I bet someone has.

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    Arguably it doesn't really matter what "IQ" measures. The important thing is that whatever it measures, it needs to do it reliably across multiple contexts and that whatever it measures is correlated with other things. Imagine I have the "blob A" test. The blob A test measures peoples ability to see the letter "A" in blobs. For some reason high scores on this test are highly correlated with a range of "good" outcomes (whatever you decide is "good"). Does it really matter what the test measures? The important thing is that it can do it reliably and that it is (reliably) correlated with good outcomes. Hence, we can begin to look at how do people come to score high on the Blob A test and in doing so then understand a potential way to increase said good outcomes. (Most likely by creating a nationalized Department of Blobs and throw ridiculous amounts of $$$ and social engineering at it).

    So to come full circle, the headline shouldn't read "people are getting dumber". It should ready "people's intelligence quotient are decreasing." Because that's all its measuring, "intelligence quotient," which is just some made up thing. The important thing to focus on is the degree to which this decrease in intelligence quotient is associated with any changes in the frequency of "good outcomes". If we can't establish that, then who really cares?

  • sparkstable||

    +1

    BUT... I'd wager we will see a decrease in outcomes over time. So maybe we should care quite a bit.

  • VOTE MILES||

    I'd wager we will see a decrease in outcomes over time. So maybe we should care quite a bit.

    I agree. And I'd wager that anyone taking your wager is likely to be an underperformer on said test.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "There is a lot of evidence that a person's IQ stays pretty much the same throughout their adult life,"

    Yes, that does sound better than "Doesn't take wild swings, but does gradually decline." Which is truer, but kind of depressing.

  • BambiB||

    Probably not. This article didn't surprise me. SAT scores in America peaked in 1972 and have trended monotonically downward since. Given that we have been driving the breeding of less-intelligent people for at least 5 decades (welfare), I am not even slightly surprised that the reduction of evolutionary pressure has resulted in the collapse of intelligence.

    "Idiocracy" - here we come! http://l23movies.com/watch/yGDa5Ld6-idiocracy.html

  • Iheartskeet||

    I can't believe it took this long in the thread to mention this movie. I would have guessed first few posts.

  • dasha||

    so did I=)

  • Mark22||

    Or maybe IQ is meaningless and unmeasureable.

    IQ is meaningful and measurable; Flynn just didn't measure it correctly.

  • Rhokaza||

    That is a naive statement. The correlation between IQ and success in school and eventually income is quite clear. IQ is probably the best single predictor for those later metrics. Not saying at you necessarily should care about getting all As or making six figures, but if you do, like most people do, then IQ is extremely important. It is "made up", sure, but it is measurable in the same way that empathy or other abstract ideas are measurable.

  • Trollificus||

    Maybe "difficult to quantify" or even "difficult to define", but INTELLIGENCE exists, and to a greater or lesser degree in some people than others. My argument for this contention?

    "Tchyuh! Of course it does, dude."

    I reset my cast.

  • MarkLastname||

    Except it isn't. It's largely heritable and correlated with productivity.

  • Brandybuck||

    The Age of Trump!

  • Trollificus||

    Are you from Norway or something?

    Now, if you said "The Age of People Who Don't Read the Last Sentence!", well then, astute observation.

  • ||

    Since the "links" thread filled up to capacity while I as busy with other things, let me take this moment to appreciate my brush with fame by noting that as an undergrad I actually had an upper division seminar on "Sadism, Masochism, and Addiction in Literature" with Avital Ronell, the professor accused under Title IX who's being defended by Judith Butler, et al.

    I want to go on record that not even knowing anything about it, I find the accusations plausible. She was easily the most boldly passive-aggressive, perpetually-victimized professor I ever came across. She would get into borderline shouting matches with students who asked her to clarify what she was saying and wound up essentially having a nervous breakdown halfway through the seminar and had to have one of her grad students take over.

    And the book she made us read was gobbledy-gook. She's the worst sort of "Deconstructionist" - the type who calls herself one.

  • ||

    Now that you mention it, the similarities are a little eerie. She might be too young, though.

  • ||

    Progressives dragged the levels down.

    Ooo nelly dey dumb.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "People are getting dumber. So concludes a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): Using military conscription data from Norwegian males born from 1962 and 1991"

    Hmmm.

    Trying to extrapolate a global trend from a slice of the population of a country that has fewer people in it than just about any major city on the planet doesn't sound too smart. Maybe even dumb.

  • MarkLastname||

    That just proves they're right!

    Which would make them smart, and therefore wrong, which would make them dumb, and therefore right again...

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    "If falling average IQ scores cannot be attributed to dysgenic or immigration effects, they must be the result of some environmental effects. But what? The researchers conclude that "our results remain consistent with a number of proposed hypotheses of IQ decline: changes in educational exposure or quality, changing media exposure, worsening nutrition or health, and social spill-overs from increased immigration."

    -So falling average IQ can't be attributed to immigration effects, but the results are consistent with hypotheses that posit immigration effects? What am I missing here?

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    Ahhh, thanks for the clarification. Missed that distinction. So its not the case that you are adding more people to the left side of the distribution and bringing down the mean. Rather there may be real social changes because of immigration that is moving the entire distribution to the left. thanks (legitimately...not trying to be a smartass)

  • SIV||

    Tacos suppress intelligence.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Genetic attributes vary by the inverse square of a population. Height, IQ, you name it. The larger a population, the less variance. One implication of this, If a population having some extremely high IQ people is favorable for a society, this might be the evolutionary basis for old class systems, caste, ra . . . too controversial? Anyway, the point is that if you can arbitrarily limit the size of the population that breeds with each other in a society, you'll get more people in the extremes of the IQ scale than you would from a larger group.

    Those old, artificial barriers to breeding (class, caste, race, etc) are breaking down. It may be that the advantages of having an elect few extremely intelligent people has now been supplanted by the advantages facilitated by freedom breaking down such barriers. That may not have always been the case in the past--industrial and agricultural societies--but it may be true now that things like food supply, etc. don't depend, as much, on the intelligence of the elite. We libertarians have argued since forever that markets make people behave as if they were smarter than they are. Perhaps markets make people even smarter than the higher extremes of the IQ scale.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yes, I'm attacking elitism.

    Deal with it.

  • MarkLastname||

    Actually, erosion of such barriers may increase the gap between the really smart and the average, and lead to more people at the extreme end. This is because historically, who you mated with was determined by social status, race, etc. today it's determined by who you get along with; and the latter probably correlates with your own IQ more than the former. A smart nobleman can now breed with a smart peasant. Assortative mating likely makes intelligent people more likely, not less, to breed with other intelligent people than used to be the case.

  • DJK||

    Ron, how convincing was the Flynn effect in the first place? I don't know much about the studies, but it seems like there might be statistical issues upfront. A 0.2 points annual increase over the 14 year period from 1962-1975 is 2.8 points total, on an average IQ of 100. That's a pretty small change. How do we know the Flynn effect wasn't just noise?

  • Mark22||

    How do we know the Flynn effect wasn't just noise?

    The Flynn effect has been reproduced in many populations.

    It isn't "real" in a different sense: it is probably an artifact of how IQ tests are designed, not a change in IQ.

  • BYODB||

    I'd be curious if, when one takes an IQ test, one always makes the same score. Last I saw, they do not. If even the same person taking the test gets different scores, that would seem to poke rather a lot of large holes in both the theories cited here. That's before one even gets into the fact that people today almost certainly aren't using the same test they were yesterday.


    It could still be a useful tool, but trending it out into assumptions about increasing or decreasing levels of overall human intelligence seems like it's really overselling the baseline accuracy of such tests.


    And, admittedly, I don't know if people make the same score on every IQ test but I do know for a fact that IQ changes over time so...this seems like it's probably bullshit.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    That's a question of the precision.

  • Mark22||

    I'd be curious if, when one takes an IQ test, one always makes the same score.

    There are many different IQ tests using many different approaches. Some of those tests are highly reproducible and not influenced by culture or education.

    Mass screening tests (like those used by Flynn and these authors) are simple language, logic, and math based tests because those are easy to administer. Those are influenced by culture, experience, and education, but that doesn't matter for screening purposes since they are just used to compare people within a single population (e.g., current Norwegian military recruits).

    People have gone back and analyzed Flynn's data and found that general intelligence ("g-factor") doesn't vary over time; what varies is the performance on language, logic, and math tests, which is indicative of education, not intelligence.

    So, yeah, the paper is bullshit, just like Flynn's original paper.

  • VOTE MILES||

    but I do know for a fact that IQ changes over time so...this seems like it's probably bullshit.

    You are not entitled to your own facts. People who actually know something about this topic say you are taking out of your ass.

  • Widsith||

  • SIV||

    Wiki link IS for morons

    The Marching Morons

  • Longtobefree||

    So the Flynn effect was based on US data years ago, and somehow Norway today being dumber is pertinent?
    Maybe Norway is dumber because they are lefty-er.

    Now in the USA, people are dumber because OSHA and meddling legislatures have attempted to thwart Darwin by regulations and legislation that lets stupid people live long enough to breed.

  • Headache||

    Is it genes, or have we "started building a stupidity-inducing environment"?

    If 'we' means Reason, the later would be true. I was unaware Norwegians read Reason.

  • the_strickler||

    I blame socialism. Nothing like cradle to grave safety nets to dull the mind and spirit.
    .
    Working without a net and with real consequences causes the mind to focus. It'll also cause you to make sure your children are challenged, capable, focused, and disciplined.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "In trying to figure out what could be going on, the Norwegian researchers took advantage of another IQ trend. First-born children tend to have higher IQs than do later-borns. The Flynn effect tends to narrow the gap between first- and later-borns within families. The researchers found that this was in fact occurring in the pre-1975 cohorts. After 1975, the gap between first- and later-born brothers began to grow. Since siblings share genetics and environments, this "within family" decrease tends to rule out dysgenic fertility or immigration as significant explanations for falling average IQs."

    Nice science reporting there.

    But as for the study, did they control for length of gaps between first and later born, and parental age?

    The obvious thing going on with the first born is that there are dysgenic effects as parents get older, and probably in accelerating fashion the older they get. From the 70s to now, birth rate slowed and people started having children later. The dysgenic effect would therefore be expected to grow.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Any versions of the paper outside the paywall?

  • MasterThief||

    I'd think some of this also has to do with higher fertility rates in lower income brackets. Assuming there is a certain amount of nurture component to IQ, a low income family has more time and resources to invest in the early years of that first child as compared to the following ones. If aging has a negative effect on the quality of genes being passed down, then this also would show a major consequence for the lower income brackets due a younger initial age of reproduction. If these scores are being pulled from military applicants, then I think it likely we are already looking at a subset of people from a poorer and less intelligent background.

  • NashTiger||

    I thought this article had to be about people reading Rev, Artie Lee's comments

  • VOTE MILES||

    Well, at least anyone who agrees with that POS.

  • stuartl||

    How long before they find out it's the Simpson paradox; just like every other time intelligence tests showed intelligence declining?

  • Mark22||

    It's not even that; it's just a misuse of IQ tests designed for screening recruits; those are not intended to give stable results over time.

  • Jayburd||

    "We have started building a more stupidity-inducing environment. Or at least the Norwegians have." Totally racist statement. We are the negroes of Europe.
    Anyway, Ole and Lena were sitting in the living room reading the Flynn study when there was a knock at the door. Lena answered the door and returns. "Who vas it?" asks Ole. "Someone vant to know if you vant to be a Jehovah's vitness." "Jehovah's vitness" respond Ole, "I didn't even see the accident".

  • Dadlobby||

    I'm sure government control and feminization of education has nothing to do with it. Gynocentric policies have decreased boys achievement in school and men are down to 35% of college graduates. Good thing we got that toxic masculinity in check and dumbed down the men. http://warrenfarrell.com/product/the-boy-crisis/

  • Mark22||

    IQ tests measure general intelligence mixed with performance in specific domains. Analysis of Flynn's data has shown that all that changes over time is domain-specific performance. The latter increased over the 20th century due to better schooling, and it is now decreasing again due to worse schooling; intelligence or evolution has nothing to do with it.

    The Flynn effect, as well as its reversal, tell us about education, not intelligence.

  • Mark22||

    Objective measures correlating with intelligence suggest a decline of intelligence since the 19th century.

  • Iheartskeet||

    In that article, the juxtaposition of the Faraday and Babbage pictures, and, off to the right, Paris Hilton and various other dimwits, was poetic (if not scientific).

  • Eman||

    I kind of doubt that nutrition has gotten worse since Al Gore was was a heartbeat away from the presidency. It seems at least as likely as any other explanation I've heard that it was just chance and were just regressing to the mean? I know theres no reason that has to happen to intelligence, but I'm not aware of any reason it wouldnt. You don't really need a lot of evidence to play in the big leagues of Flynn effect hypotheses.

  • ravenshrike||

    Did any of these oh so bright scholars care to look at trends in education itself?

  • Michael Cook||

    It is fashionable nowadays to dismiss both intelligence and achievement testing as being meaningless, old fashioned ideas that in the past were used to suppress "victim" classes and provide yet more advantages to the privileged classes.

    The truth was quite the other way around. Prior to WWI admittance to universities and professions was not based on objective measures, but on purely subjective ones such as recommendations from prominent citizens or grades from private schools dependent on the tuitions rich parents paid or local public schools where the wary teachers knew which families expected their little wonders to be college material. Colleges themselves preferentially accepted children of alumni.

    IQ tests came along after 1914 because the Army and Navy realized they needed a better way of selecting recruits who could learn highly technical jobs in short periods of time. The new age demanded that society devote the most education resources at university level to those who were actually most educable.

    The age of meritocracy measured by testing was born. It was brief and glorious. Took the USA to the moon using slide rules. However, today we are rapidly sliding backwards. Grade point averages are so inflated as to be meaningless. Highly subjective teacher evaluations, social promotions by covert or overt quotas, and the prioritizing of flashy projects and activities that are only tangentially related to knowledge are now resurging.

    Politics and power.

  • Nanoo||

    The downtrend in the US can be placed squarely in the hands of the Dept of Education. Education in this country has been circling the bowl since its inception in 1979 and doesn't lool like it's going to get any better until the department is terminated and education reverts to local control.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Except the downward trend was in Norway, according to this article, and in the US the exact opposite is happening - average IQ is increasing.

  • Flinch||

    I doubt it, based on the overexposure of all things Kardashian. More likely is... teachers are coaching for tests, and not really touching subject mastery. Some of us might recall: the toughest tests taken usually begin with a blank sheet of paper, not a scantron form with multiple choice to jog our memories.

  • nicmart||

    How recently it was that Reason was pushing the view that watching TV had made Americans smarter.

  • Flinch||

    I'll bite. It does seem scandanavians are getting dumber: I seem to recall swedes reacted to the arrival of arab street throat cutters & rapists the last few years by... blaming "male culture", guided by the short haired marms running society into the dirt. No, the quran is not an exclusively male document so sadly people are indeed getting dumber [as prompted by political correctness and so called "hate speech" laws]. And to think we have an entire party in the US in love with eurosocialism. What they don't see is what underwrote this progressive experiment gone awry: europe having it's military security needs largely underwritten by the US which freed up a giant slice of their economy to play pickpocket politics with. That situation was unique, and cannot be copied in the US... and maybe never again. The exit price for all of this enabling by uncle sam? Unthinkable: Europe may be overrun by the barbarians who will trash its history, its art, its culture and replace it with bilge and a prayer rug.

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