We often think that as a society we are getting dumber and dumber. While the subject is controversial, there is some evidence that it’s true.
A recent research study suggests that IQ levels are going down. The study is controversial because of the difficulty of finding samples of IQ levels from people of different eras. However, the team was able to study reaction times, which are part of intelligence tests. They found that these declined over the period from 1884 to 2004 and determined that the difference could be as much as 14 points on the IQ scale.
There is more evidence that IQ levels are going down based on the difference in these levels from the 1950’s and today. Richard Lynn, a psychologist at the University of Ulster, found that our collective intelligence has dropped by one IQ point.
Many people have also commented that there are clear signs that our intelligence is becoming reduced. They cite evidence from textbooks and exam questions over time. Some researchers have concluded that we expect less from our children than previous generations. Other researchers refer to evidence from literature, which they say clearly shows that in the past, people could understand longer texts with wider vocabularies than many can today.
So what causes these differences in IQ levels? Well, researchers generally agree that they differ for a variety of reasons, including genetics and environmental factors.
Genetic Influences on Intelligence
Based on such studies of the IQ’s of identical twins, researchers have determined about half of intelligence is determined by a genetics. This means that half of our intelligence is based on other factors including family wealth, parents attitudes to education and cultural and educational opportunities.
Other reasons we might be getting dumber and dumber
Various theories have considered why we may be getting dumber and dumber. Factors include everything from high-fat diets, air pollution, multi-tasking, and shallow forms of information, including watching reality TV. Some researchers have suggested that because our lives are simpler in the modern world, we do not need the levels of intelligence we once did to survive. Of course, we also have more technological aids than we ever have before. We do not need to be good at mental math, or spelling, for example, because we have tools to take care of these kinds of problems.
Can we affect our IQ Levels?
When thinking about the intelligence of our children, we should consider making sure they get a healthy lifestyle and a good education. But is it too late for us to improve our own IQ? Apparently not. In fact, there are several actions we can take to help improve our intelligence.
There are many games and apps that we can use to increase our IQ. Puzzles and word games can also help improve our mental acuity. Even video games can improve our spatial awareness.
Fitness really can improve our intelligence. Maria Aberg proved cardiovascular fitness can raise your verbal intelligence by 50%. A brisk walk or run, an aerobics exercise class or hitting the treadmill at the gym should do the trick.
Eat less meat
Several studies how show than those who follow a vegetarian lifestyle have a higher IQ. “Both the lifestyle and nutritional choices of vegetarians are associated with strong intellectual functioning and a slower cognitive decline,” says Mensa’s consultant psychologist Maria Leitner.
Despite the recent findings, there are problems with using IQ tests to measure intelligence. This is because they often do not take cultural factors into account. Some cultures are more likely to prepare children for the kind of knowledge-based questions in an IQ test. This does not necessarily mean that these candidates are less intelligent. Education systems often reinforce this knowledge based learning, so those who spend more time at school are more likely to achieve high scores on IQ tests as a result. Again, this does not necessarily indicate that they are more intelligent overall.
So we need to be careful in assuming that society is getting dumber and dumber. It may simply be that our ways of measuring intelligence are not as comprehensive as they need to be. However, it is worth working on our cognitive abilities to keep our brains functioning at their best for as long as possible.
Image credit: Steve Cutts
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