29 January 2006

What is Happening to the IQ of the UK?

A big hat tip to Kevin at Intelligence Testing. He points to a recent article in Gene Expression Blog that discusses a possible decline in intelligence among schoolchildren in the UK.

Kevin also kindly provides a link to the original article in timesonline.

Many of you are aware of the "Flynn Effect" which claims that there is an ongoing increase in intelligence "g" with each new generation. The findings in the UK may stand in contradiction to the Flynn Effect. Since no one understands the Flynn effect, you can be sure no one understands this more recent finding either.

Nevertheless it is very important for what it may say about trends in the developed world. Having a mean population IQ of 100, as the UK does, provides the UK with a predictable supply of men and women with IQs of 110, 120, 130, and 140. These higher IQs are where much of the work of advanced civilisation are done. Without a reliable supply of higher IQ humans, an advanced civilisation would grind to a standstill.

If the mean IQ of the UK were to fall to, say, 90 or below, what would that do to the supply of the higher IQ people who run the complex functions of society? The supply would slowly dry up, from the top of the tail down. At that point, if the UK wants to continue doing advanced research, it will have to import its scientific and engineering talent from abroad.

The mean population IQ of the UK is still around 100, and will stay there, not least because it is set by definition. But you understand the concept, assuming there were a Platonic ideal IQ of "100", defined as the mean population IQ of the UK as measured in the year 2000, the mean IQ of the UK could certainly drop in comparison.

Naturally, I am using the UK as an example, because the study linked to above was done in the UK. But I am actually taking the UK as a metaphor for the western nations. Previous postings here demonstrated the relationship between IQ and national wealth. So. If western cultures have the stomach for it, they need to find out if this "contra-Flynn" effect is real, and what caused it.

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Blogger Dennis Dale said...

I've often suspected that the Flynn effect is a false result not yet explained. General intelligence couldn't improve that much over such short periods, could it? Though there has been a recent assertion that cranial capacity has increased significantly in just the past 600 years (I may have read about that here).
The Times article makes no mention of race or demographic changes among the test group, so we're left wondering.
My own field studies have accumulated alarming data suggesting downward pressures on g; spinning rims on cars and downloadable ring tones among the most ominous.

Sunday, 29 January, 2006  
Blogger al fin said...

I am skeptical of the Flynn effect, just as I am skeptical of the study described in this post. My take on the Flynn effect? Improved nutrition, decreased toxins, increased mental stimuli from high tech entertainments, and increased familiarity with test questions of the type that relate to measurements of "g."

It is possible to increase intelligence significantly by improving nutrition for fetuses and young children where nutrition is poor, and reducing toxic exposure for the young. That is why measures of IQ in the undeveloped world cannot be considered as a fixed quantity. How high can mean IQ go in subsaharan africa? Probably about as high as mean IQ for african immigrants in the western world.

IQ limitations can be mitigated by excellent people skills for some occupations. High motivation can also help to compensate somewhat. For a lot of professions and occupations there is no substitute for g. Political correctness is going to take some major damage once more key people begin to comprehend the problem.

Monday, 30 January, 2006  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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