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Fri May 17, 2013, 10:48 AM

Researchers suggest Victorian-era people more intelligent (than) modern-day counterparts

I doubt people will accept this study, especially the asserted reason given for the decline. But, fwiw. From phys.org:

(Phys.org) —In a new study, a European research team suggests that the average intelligence level of Victorian-era people was higher than that of modern-day people. They base their controversial assertion on reaction times (RT) to visual stimuli given as tests to people from the late 1800s to modern times—the faster the reaction time, they say, the smarter the person.

The Victorian era has been highly touted by historians as one of the most productive in human history—inventions, observations and highly acclaimed art and music from that time still resonate today. The era was defined by Queen Victoria's reign in England which ran from 1837 until her death in 1901. Comparing the average IQ of people from that time with that of modern-day people is, of course, impossible—at least using traditional methods. The researchers suggest that reaction times to stimuli can be used as an alternative way to compare relative IQ levels.

IQ tests themselves have come under scrutiny of late because they quite often reflect bias, such as education levels, societal norms, and other not-easily defined factors. Other research has shown that overall health, nutrition levels and degree of fatigue can impact IQ scores as well. For this reason, the team has turned to RT as a means of evaluating what they call general intelligence, which they claim to be a measure of elementary cognition.

The researchers didn't come up with the idea of RT as a measure of intelligence themselves; rather, they are relying on claims made by other researchers over the years that they say prove that RT is a way of measuring the "true" intelligence of a person, i.e. an intelligence measure not impacted by education level, illness, background, etc. Using such claims as a basis, the team looked at RT tests given by various researchers during the period 1884 to 2004, and found that RT rates slowly increased over the entire time period. For men, the increase was found to be 183ms to 253ms; for women the increase was from 188ms to 261ms. The researchers claim this proves that people have grown "less clever" over time. They back up their claim by suggesting they know the reason for the decline in intelligence—smarter people having fewer children, while the less smart, have more.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Fri May 17, 2013, 10:55 AM

1. "less smart people having more children?"

Yeesh. Where to begin . .

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Fri May 17, 2013, 10:55 AM

2. I'll go out on a limb here and say I partly agree with the potential underlying cause assertion.

To wit:

They back up their claim by suggesting they know the reason for the decline in intelligence—smarter people having fewer children, while the less smart, have more.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-victorian-era-people-intelligent-modern-day-counterparts.html#jCp


Without any science behind it, just through observation of friends and others, I confess that with few exceptions, the most intelligent people I've ever met have no children or only one or two, and many have chosen adoption as the way to grow a family.

To the list of reasons, I would add poor nutrition (the abundance of crap food), stress, and the lack of meaningful education outside of school, which is to say the loss of experiential education that a kid raised on a farm would have had in years past, or working experiences early in life.

Fire away.

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Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #2)

Fri May 17, 2013, 11:23 AM

4. Here's a linear regression that's included with the description of the article.



That image comes from the description of the article at Intelligence. There appears to be a large error associated with that regression. Knowing the details of the various tests, especially the details of the recent tests that show similar response times to the Victorian Era would help in judging the accuracy of the study.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #4)

Fri May 17, 2013, 12:02 PM

5. One also has to accept the premise that reaction times correlate to intelligence.

I suppose the study backs that up with citations, but I'm initially skeptical of the claim:

Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence (g) and are considered elementary measures of cognition.


I wonder what kinds of reactions and stimuli were involved in the research.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #4)

Fri May 17, 2013, 06:31 PM

8. Except the details of the tests aren't known to anyone

"Nor does the data suggest that those researchers testing people for their reaction times chose their subjects at random, or even in fact, performed the tests in the same way as everyone else."

So it smells of psueodscience to me.

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Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #2)

Fri May 17, 2013, 01:02 PM

6. I agree with your characterization, but not w/ the implicit biological etiology n/t

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Fri May 17, 2013, 10:55 AM

3. Duh. Victorians didn't have gadgets to do their thinking for them.

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Response to sinkingfeeling (Reply #3)

Sun May 19, 2013, 06:28 AM

10. I believe that many of our "gadgets" actually allow us to utilize our intelligence better

Compare our gadgets to a pencil and paper to what you can do in your head without writing anything down..

Before pencil and paper and writing (i.e. gadgets of a much earlier era) all of our thoughts and critical thinking was done solely inside of our head.

For example, solve for the volume of a sphere with a radius of 3.267 meters without writing anything down and using only your internal thought process. At least in my head, I know I'd be stuck just trying to cube the radius, let alone having to multiply it by 4/3 and pi. When you can write it down on paper you can chug your way through the calculations. With a calculator you can punch it in and get an answer instantaneously. With each bit of technology you get the answer faster and more accurately.

In this case, technology allows you to free up your thought process to focus on deeper problems.

The same situation could also be applied to memory, books, and the internet. You probably won't remember everything about Boyle's law from your 8th grade science class, but you might be able to pull out an encyclopedia and find the answer you were looking for within a couple of minutes. With the internet, you could punch it into a search engine and have the answer you are looking for within seconds. Thus, technology allows you to control more information faster and easier than you could without the internet and books.

Thus, with technology, you have a much better ability to recall something that you learned about many decades ago.

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Response to Victor_c3 (Reply #10)

Sun May 19, 2013, 10:16 AM

11. Is Google Ruining Your Memory?

By now, you’ve probably heard about this smart study showing that Google is making you stupid, led by Betsy Sparrow at Columbia. The scientists demonstrated that the availability of the internet is changing the nature of what we remember, making us more likely to recall where the facts are rather than the facts themselves. Patricia Cohen of the Times summarizes the results:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/07/is-google-ruining-your-memory/

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Fri May 17, 2013, 06:21 PM

7. "highly touted by historians as one of the most productive in human history?" Uhh.

That's before getting into the implicit and explicit cherrypicking and some pretty flexible conclusion reaching. Sorry, not really convinced by this one, even if the "hurr durr we're stupider now lolz" tone will appeal to the usual crowd.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Sat May 18, 2013, 11:04 AM

9. Our children are given 13+ years of "don't react training". I would say that is working.

What does it have to do with intelligence.

You are kept out of Canada for reacting online. You are arrested, maced and beaten in reaction to civil disobedience as our world has become poorer, more dangerous and harsher. Kids are arrested for almost everything in school now. Churches teach forgiveness (except for "them") and obedience What part of this didn't the researcher understand or was this a fake research for some other reason?

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Mon May 20, 2013, 09:34 PM

12. Then my dog is much smarter than me.

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