Smarter or Dumber?

Posted by M ws On Wednesday, June 5, 2013 0 comments
Is humanity getting smarter or dumber with time? The answer may be both.

While IQ scores are rising at a remarkable rate, humans' underlying genetic potential for smarts could be on the decline, a new study suggests. The research found that by one measure of intelligence, the Victorians had modern folk beat.

The findings aren't without controversy — particularly whether or not the measurements used really reveal intelligence. Still, the study highlights the trouble with measuring intelligence over time: Smarts aren't defined as just one thing. What makes a person clever on the African Savannah could be nearly useless in the financial centers of Hong Kong.

"It's not simply that intelligence is going down or going up," said Michael Woodley, a psychologist at Umea University in Sweden who led the new research. "Different parts of intelligence could be changing in lots of different ways." [Life's Extremes: Smart vs. Dumb]

Are you smarter than your grandma?

The world is full of evidence that modern humans have more going on upstairs than their ancestors did: Smartphones. Heart transplants. A basic understanding that germs cause diseases.

Beyond these technological advances, though, is another hint that humans are getting smarter. It's called the Flynn effect, named after intelligence researcher James Flynn, an emeritus professor of the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Since IQ, or intelligence quotient, tests have been revised and standardized several times in the past 100 years, to see the Flynn effect, scientists have their volunteers take tests designed for previous generations. Flynn and his colleagues have found that all around the world, the new generations score higher on the old tests than the original test takers did.

The increases are no small matter, either — they vary by geography, but tend to be around three extra IQ points per decade. [Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds]

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