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American IQ scores have been falling for over a decade, with declines recorded in nearly all but one cognitive area, according to a study by Northwestern University. The research collated data from the Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment Project, which recorded responses from almost 400,000 Americans between 2006 and 2018. Areas showing the greatest decline were logic, vocabulary, visual problem solving and analogy. There were also decreases in computational and mathematical abilities. However, indicators for spatial thinking increased. Elizabeth Dvorak, one of the authors of the study, suggested a shift in societal values may be responsible for the decline.
does that mean we’re getting dumber
American IQs have been falling for more than a decade, according to Popular Mechanics.
Looking at intelligence test data from 2006 to 2018, researchers at Northwestern University noticed that test scores in all but one “cognitive area” were declining. This is the first time we’ve seen a consistent decline in the performance of these testing categories. Scientists call this the “reverse Flynn effect.”
In a 1984 study, James Flynn noticed that since the early 1930s, Americans’ IQ scores have steadily risen. This steady growth is called the “Flynn effect”. Given that general intelligence seemed to be increasing faster than evolution could explain, the cause of the increase has become a source of debate. Many attributed this change to various environmental factors.
But now it seems that the reverse effect of Flynn is working, and its reasons are also unclear.
The study, published in the journal Intelligence, used the online personality test Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment Project. Nearly 400,000 Americans have completed it. The researchers recorded responses from 2006 to 2018 to see if cognitive ability scores in a country change over time. The data showed declines in logic, vocabulary (verbal reasoning), visual problem solving, and analogy (matrix reasoning). The indicators of computational and mathematical abilities also decreased.
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However, on the other hand, indicators of spatial thinking increased. The authors of the study note that since not all areas are declining, it is difficult to draw specific conclusions.
Elizabeth Dvorak, research assistant professor at Northwestern University and one of the authors of the study, said these results do not mean that Americans are becoming less intelligent.
“This does not mean that their mental abilities have become lower or higher. It’s just a difference in assessments of the situation, which is inherent in different generations, – she said. – It may be due to the fact that people have become worse at passing tests. Or specifically, it’s worse to pass such tests.”
There has long been debate about how accurately IQ tests can measure general intelligence.
Be that as it may, the results are falling. And there must be a reason for this. Dvorak believes that this may be due to “a shift in the perception of values in society.” She offers a potential explanation. The increased focus on STEM education may have caused other areas such as abstract thinking to take a back seat.
“If you think about what society excites, what it emphasizes and reinforces every day, chances are that this will be reflected in the results of the IQ test,” she explained.
Several other hypotheses have been put forward to explain the reverse Flynn effect. For example, the decline in nutritional standards, the deterioration of the school system, social networks. As well as increased air pollution. Or the idea that people are just less interested in getting good IQ test scores.
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