Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A decline in intelligence. . .

IQ scores have decreased in the US for the first time in decades, new research from scientists at Northwestern University and the University of Oregon suggests.  The study, which was published in the journal Intelligence in March, indicated that IQ levels had lowered, across age and economic levels.  According to some studies, the average rate of decline has been around three IQ points a decade, amounting to the loss of about 13.5 percent in average intelligence between 1975 and 2020. Other studies point out a particular decline beginning with the start of the 21st century.  Results from separate studies carried out in seven different countries describe a general loss of intelligence.  In other words, as our machines advance, we are declining.  That could be both a cause for expanding AI or it could be a warning -- it depends on who you are, I guess. 

IQ scores increased substantially from 1932 through the 20th century, with differences ranging from three to five IQ points per decade -- the phenomenon is known as the “Flynn effect.”  Scores of verbal reasoning (logic, vocabulary), matrix reasoning (visual problem solving, analogies), and letter and number series (computational/mathematical) dropped during the study period with only 3D rotation (spatial reasoning) scores increasing over the same period.

So why is this happening?  Is it a physical problem (chemicals, pollution, diet, contaminants, etc.) or is a reflection of technology (letting our tech devices think for us and being content instead to amuse ourselves)?  Is it familial and reflective of the overall decline of the family itself?  Is it that we are less adept at tests than previous ages?  A shift in perceived values in society could affect test scores.  Another factor could be due to a decline in motivation -- remember all those stories about quiet quitting and boredom with work and school?  Did the pandemic affect scores?  Does it mean that our ability is declining or simply that we do not apply ourselves or educate ourselves for the same answers of a previous age?  Is it a reflection of the increasing complexity, stress, and pressures of our modern lives?  The Dr. Flynn of the Flynn Effect suggested that it could be “due to youth culture having “stagnated” or even dumbed down.”  Interesting that test scores are not mirroring the IQ decline.  Call it grade inflation.   

Whatever the reason, it ought to be a cause for concern.  It is no secret that our educational institutions are burdened with non-educational and social engineering tasks.  It is no secret that the state of the family is a real problem across economic, racial, and geographical lines.  It is no secret that we are dependent upon technology not only to do things for us but increasingly to think for us.  It is no secret that our lives are deeply affected by the chemicals in the water and food chain.  It is no secret that motivation is a serious problem (ever try to hire people for a job?).  It is also no secret that the world has been in a decline for a long time -- reflected in the rise of mental illness, violence, hate, and conflict everywhere in our modern culture.  It is also no secret that this comes as moral values, virtue, and faith are at their weakest.  Regardless of what you think are some of the causes, we ought to be concerned.


1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

In their publication, "Looking for Flynn effects in a recent online U.S. adult sample: Examining shifts within the SAPA Project" (Intelligence, Volume 98, May–June 2023), researchers Elizabeth M. Dworak, William Revelle, and David M. Condon noted:

"[O]ur results suggest the causal hypothesis that exposure to education accounts for the direction and strength of the Flynn effect was not observed within this sample. Rather, exposure to education may only be protective for certain age groups. Not only did the present study find that the steepest negative slopes of composite or domain scores occurred for individuals with less than a 4-year college degree, the largest differences for age stratified regressions after controlling for educational attainment were exhibited for those between the ages of 18 and 22... However, it could be the case that our results indicate a change of quality or content of education and test-taking skills within this large United States sample. As scores were lower for more recent participants across all levels of education, this might suggest that either the caliber of education has decreased across this study’s sample and/or that there has been a shift in the perceived value of certain cognitive skills."

The lowering of educational and vocational standards, as part of affirmative action, and the disparaging of education as "racist" certainly points to the latter case. In addition, the increasing influx of illegal aliens over the last decade or two may also have had an effect on the decreasing IQ scores.