Do you think we’re smarter today as a society than a hundred years ago? I don't mean more informed but more intelligent. How about fifty years ago? Thirty? About now you’re wondering where this is going.
Accredited IQ tests have been around for over 100 years. A lot has changed since the end of the first World War, including our overall intelligence. Recently, the BBC reviewed the history of measured intelligence. The results might surprise you. Many of us think of times previous as perhaps being the most enlightened. It’s easy to look around our society, the world today with a cynical view of overall intelligent thought. Well, if you thought that overall intelligence peaked previously, you are right. If you thought the turning point might have been the Macarena, you might also be right.
As it turns out, the average IQ in the developed world continued to rise progressively, from the inception of the test until 1995. From around 1919 through 1995 IQ’s rose by 25-30 points around the world. That’s pretty impressive. It goes hand in hand with better health and longer life expectancy over the same window of time. Recently, you may have heard that once again life expectancy around the world, including the US, has dropped and almost as if on cue, so has our IQ.
The peak intelligence appears to have been achieved in 1995. Since then, we’ve shed an average of seven IQ points. That’s a fairly significant slide over the past 24 years. It’s a bit too early to pin the tail on the donkey and who knows, maybe the Macarena did spell the beginning of the end of peak intelligence. Regardless, if you’ve been wondering if society really is less intelligent than it used to be, it is.
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