Our modern lifestyle is under scrutiny. More and more people are wondering if our way of life increases intelligence or, on the contrary, makes us fall into a kind of mental numbness, as if we lived automatically. Scientists have also asked themselves this question and have spent decades analyzing our IQ. The results are not very encouraging.
Flynn Effect: The Years In Which Intelligence Bloomed
Tests to measure the IQ applied since the 1980th century suggested that human intelligence was increasing. It is what is known as the Flynn Effect. In 35 James R. Flynn collected data from 3 countries using standardized WISC and Raven IQ tests. He found that his IQ increased by an average of XNUMX points every ten years.
Why did this increase in intelligence occur?
There are several hypotheses. One of these suggests that it depends on a better diet, which provides all the nutrients necessary for the brain to develop and reach its maximum potential. Another theory points to the tendency to create families with fewer children, which allows them to provide children with a more suitable environment for development. A final hypothesis refers to the growing complexity of the environment, which would act as a stimulus for intelligence.
The decline of intelligence
In 2004, researchers from the University of Oslo sounded the alarm indicating that the Flynn effect may be about to end. Starting from the analysis of the IQ of 500.000 people, they observed that in the 90s there was a peak in the results obtained in the intelligence tests, but later the growth stopped and there was also a slight decrease in the numerical reasoning tests. .
They weren't the only ones, the same year a group of psychologists from the University of Adelaide in southern Australia published the results of 20 years of research with children between the ages of 6 and 13 attending the same school. Their results indicate that from 1981 to 2001 the IQ stopped growing and a decrease in processing speed was even observed.
What is the reason for this decrease in the IQ?
The dysgenic theory is one of the most popular explanations. According to this theory, more intelligent and educated people usually have fewer children, which would statistically affect the level of general intelligence. At the same time, people with lower IQs are likely to have more children and receive less education, resulting in lower IQ scores, which would help reduce scores over time and dull the general population.
The era of "junk culture"?
A more recent study by the University of Michigan that analyzed data from more than 700.000 people confirmed the decline of at least 7 points in IQ per generation that began in the mid-70s, as the graph below shows. These researchers stated that "the decline in intelligence reflects environmental factors and no changes in the dysgenic inheritance."
Psychologists precisely compared the IQs of siblings born in different years and found that rather than being similar as suggested by the dysgenic theory, the IQ scores differ significantly. This means that our intelligence is determined by the society we grow up in, the interests it promotes, and the education we receive.
If we grow up in a society that promotes free thinking - seriously - and encourages creativity, we are likely to develop our intelligence to the fullest. If society pushes us away from reflection by offering content designed solely to "kill time" and continually dictates what we should do, we will not have the opportunity to develop our problem-solving skills.
More than ever, digital technology is controlling our attention in ways that are addictive. Unlike television, the "idiot box" that remained at home, the smartphone accompanies us everywhere, becoming a disruptive agent that continually requires our attention by plunging us into a state of "minimum consciousness". And without attention, there can be no critical thinking.
We not only consume junk food but also “junk culture”. And this is reflected in our ability to solve problems, choose relevant information, and ultimately form critical thinking. The decision is in our hands.