Human Intelligence Is Going Down

Human Intelligence Is Going Down March 29, 2023

As Artificial Intelligence is getting better, human intelligence is getting worse.

That’s the impression one gets from a study that has found that  IQ Scores Are Going Down.

John Anderer reports on the findings of a Northwestern University study of data from 394,378 Americans collected between 2006 to 2018.  He notes that from 1932 throughout the rest of the 20th century, IQ scores had been rising around the world by 3 to 5 points per decade.  This has been called the “Flynn Effect.”

This new study by Elizabeth M. Dworak, William Revelle, and David M. Condon sought to determine if the Flynn Effect has been continuing.  But what they found instead is a “reverse-Flynn Effect.”  In the period studied, between 2006 and 2018, scores have been consistently declining every year.  This is happening across all ages, education levels, and genders.

Specifically, the cognitive areas in decline are “verbal reasoning (logic, vocabulary), matrix reasoning (visual problem solving, analogies), and letter and number series (computational/mathematical).”  Also declining were “Composite ability scores (single scores derived from multiple pieces of information).”  One area, spatial reasoning, did show improvement.

How much were they down?  The study didn’t make that particularly clear, but it showed the “slope” of the decline.  The research, published in the journal Intelligence, included these graphs.  From my reading, the data is being put in the public domain, so I think I can copy the graphs here:

Fig. 1

Notice that in addition to these remarkably consistent declines, we have the further absence of the Flynn Effect, which would have predicted a slope with a similar rise.  So the difference in cognitive ability between what was happening in the 20th century and what is happening in the 21st century is even more pronounced.

What is the reason for this?  The researchers don’t know, and your guess is as good as theirs.  “Researchers add there is no shortage of possible explanations and theories in the scientific community,” says Anderer, “ranging from poor nutrition,  and worsening health to media exposures and changes to education. . . .A change in societal values may have also affected IQ scores.”

I would suggest that researchers investigate the consequences of the educational collapse that has happened first in public schools and is now happening in higher education.

Also the philosophical shift that goes by the name of postmodernism:  Is it any wonder that people who believe that truth is relative and no longer believe in reason, are less and less capable of reasoning, whether verbal, matrix, mathematical, or composite?  Or perhaps the decline in reasoning ability is responsible for downplaying of reason in the academy.

Another good research project would be investigating the impact of digital technology on an individual’s thinking ability.  Perhaps we are farming out our mental capacity to the machines that we increasingly depend upon.

What are your theories?


Illustration:  Human brain via PickPik Royalty Free Photos.

"Sorry, although I would have used the adjective "soiled" rather than "compromised". :)"

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