(NaturalNews) Are humans getting dumber? That is the finding of a new study which says that our collective IQs have fallen over the last decade, even while technology keeps getting "smarter."
According to a report in New Scientist magazine online, the study questions whether "our century-long rise in intelligence" is reversing itself:
In Denmark, every man is liable for military service at the age of 18. Nowadays, only a few thousand get conscripted but all have to be assessed, and that includes doing an IQ test. Until recently, the same one had been used since the 1950s.
"We actually have the same test being administered to 25 to 30,000 young men every year," Thomas Teasdale, a psychologist at the University of Copenhagen, told the magazine.
According to findings, the testing shows that scores have fallen by 1.5 points since 1998, and as Britain's Daily Mail noted, "opinion is divided" about whether the current trend will last for some time, but some researchers are of the belief that perhaps humans have merely reached their intellectual peak.
The Flynn effect
In addition to the Danish military tests, similar standard tests used in the United Kingdom and Australia revealed similar results, the New Scientist reported.
From the 1930s to the 1980s, the average IQ score in the United States rose by an average of three points. In postwar Japan and Denmark, test scores also rose dramatically in a trend that has been dubbed the "Flynn effect." The intelligence increase was attributed to better nutrition and living conditions, in conjunction with better education, according to James Flynn of the University of Otago in New Zealand, the effect's namesake.
But now, some experts think that the world is beginning to see the end of the Flynn effect in developed countries. They think that IQ scores are not simply leveling off but instead decreasing.
That said, a number of scientists, including Flynn, believe that the trend can be reversed through better education. They note that the perceived decline could also be just a temporary setback.
Still, other scientists are not nearly as optimistic, according to the Daily Mail. These scientists believe that the Flynn effect has hidden a gradual decline in the genetic basis for intelligence; while more people have managed to reach their full intellectual potential, that top-level of potential has been falling.
Some have even contended that the drop could be due to educated people deciding to have fewer children, meaning subsequent generations are being made up of less intelligent humans.
Richard Lynn, who is a psychologist at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, has computed the decline in overall human genetic potential. Using data on average IQs from around the globe from the years 1950 and 2000, he found that average levels fell by one point. And, he says, if the current trend continues, it is possible for Mankind to lose an additional 1.3 points by 2050.
The Daily Mail reported further:
[Dr.] Michael Woodley, of the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, claims people's reactions are slower than in Victorian times, and has linked it to a decline in our genetic potential.
It was claimed earlier that quick-witted individuals have faster reactions; Dr. Woodley's study demonstrated that people's reaction times have fallen over the past century, which is equivalent to one IQ point per decade.
"The reduction in human intelligence (if there is any reduction) would have begun at the time that genetic selection became more relaxed," Dr. Gerald Crabtree, professor of pathology and developmental biology at Stanford University, told The Huffington Post in an email.
"I projected this occurred as our ancestors began to live in more supportive high density societies (cities) and had access to a steady supply of food. Both of these might have resulted from the invention of agriculture, which occurred about 5,000 to 12,000 years ago," he added.
Jan te Nijenhuis, a psychology professor at the University of Amsterdam, says that Westerners specifically have lost an average of 14 IQ points since the Victorian Era, and he says that is probably due to more intelligent women having fewer and fewer children than those who aren't as intellectually gifted, HuffPo reported.