Getting Around the Reverse-Flynn Effect

From Researchers say Western IQs dropped 14 points over last century

A new study from researchers in Europe claims that the average IQ in Western nations dropped by a staggering 14.1 points over the past century.

“We tested the hypothesis that the Victorians were cleverer than modern populations using high-quality instruments, namely measures of simple visual reaction time in a meta-analytic study,” the researchers wrote in the study, which was published online in the journal Intelligence on Thursday. “Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence and are considered elementary measures of cognition.”

The 2006 Mike Judge movie Ideocracy has become something of an allegory for America’s supposed ‘dumbing-down’, and there may be a tendency among some to read into these studies to confirm their own biases and beliefs (confirmation bias), ignoring the subtleties.

Not sure if reaction time is the best test of IQ (otherwise baseball players would be the greatest geniuses ever), and how do you test or ascertain reaction time for people that have been dead for 100+ years. Also, the good news is it’s it’s still possible to have some dysgenic effects but still greatly more intellectual output overall, as the vast (and growing) yearly output arXiv directory shows. The reason for this is two-fold:

Even in a population with a below-average mean IQ, genius will still be produced by virtue of the normal distribution of scores, but obviously not as many as for a distribution with a higher mean. The movie Ideocracy implies no geniuses are produced.

It’s possible to have a lower global mean IQ but still have more geniuses being conceived – the difference being that the geniuses constitute a smaller percentage of the population, but there are still more of them. That could explain why scientific output keeps growing, despite how the world is supposed to be ‘dumbing-down’. If low-IQ countries have a much higher birthrate than high-IQ countries (as we see with Europe’s declining birthrate), we would expect global average IQ to fall.

From a policy standpoint, this necessitates some form of ‘quality control’ (immigration control, anti-miscegenation laws, and eugenics) to preserve ‘reservoirs’ of high IQ from being contaminated by low-IQ populations.