Research: Modern people dumber than 140 years ago

Americans in the late part of the 19th century were smarter than modern counterparts
Americans in the late part of the 19th century were smarter than modern counterparts

So much innovation and progress was achieved in the last part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th because people were just plain smarter than we are now, according to new research.

Writing in the journal Intelligence this month, Dr. Michael Woodley says that the apparent reverse in intelligence — on average 14 IQ points since the 1880s — is a form of reverse natural selection. The most intelligent people are having fewer children now than in previous decades, while there are higher survival rates among everyone.

Woodley and his team came to their conclusions by measuring reaction times — regarded as a reliable marker of general intelligence — of a modern group of people, and compared them to those recorded by scientists in the 1880s.

Average reaction times in men have increased from 183 milliseconds in 1880 to 250 ms now; and in women from 187 to 277.

That represented a fall in average IQ across the globe of around 1.23 points per decade.


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