Breaking news:

The Sideshow

Researchers say Western IQs dropped 14 points over last century

View photo


Are we less clever than our recent ancestors? (Live Science)

A new study from researchers in Europe claims that the average IQ in Western nations dropped by a staggering 14.1 points over the past century.

"We tested the hypothesis that the Victorians were cleverer than modern populations using high-quality instruments, namely measures of simple visual reaction time in a meta-analytic study," the researchers wrote in the study, which was published online in the journal Intelligence on Thursday. "Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence and are considered elementary measures of cognition."

The results might surprise some. Especially if the researchers were simply measuring visual response times. After all, in a digital world constantly competing for our attention, it would seem people generally respond more quickly to visual stimuli. However, the results appear to indicate something different.

The Victorian era ran roughly from 1837 to 1901, coinciding with the reign of England's Queen Victoria. Some have credited the Reform Act of 1832 with sparking an era of previously unprecedented peace and prosperity in the U.K.

The results were measured using data from 1889 to 2004 and were analyzed by Michael A. Woodley of Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Jan te Nijenhuis of the University of Amsterdam and Raegan Murphy of the University College Cork in Ireland.

So why has there been such a steady drop? As UPI notes, previous research studies have found that women of higher intelligence tend to have fewer children on average, meaning that population growth may be driven by those with a lower IQ. And over time, the abundance of less intelligent offspring would affect the overall IQ average.

On average, the general intelligence of those populations measured dropped by 1.23 points per decade.

"These findings strongly indicate that with respect to general intelligence the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations," the study says.

The study had other positive observations about the Victorian era, noting that economic efficiency began to flourish during the period and that the “height of the per capita numbers of significant innovations in science and technology, and also the per capita numbers of scientific geniuses,” occurred during that time, followed by a steady decline.

View Comments (3697)

Recommended for You

  • Sirens ring out as air strikes hit IS Syria stronghold

    In the Islamic State group's Syrian stronghold of Raqa, sirens ring out whenever a warplane approaches as jihadists flee their posts and vehicles to hide, activists say. A US-led coalition and Russia have stepped up air strikes on the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital since IS claimed to have…

  • Massachusetts police officer indicted for shooting hoax found dead: report

    The former officer, Bryan Johnson, 25, was pronounced dead in his home in Millis, a Boston suburb, CBS said, citing a statement from the Norfolk District Attorney's Office. Johnson, a part-time officer, was alleged to have called a dispatcher in September and saying a gunman had shot at his police…

  • Ohio State and Michigan meet, potentially just for pride

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — If either Ohio State or Michigan had held on to beat Michigan State, a bid to the Big Ten title game would be at stake again on Saturday in the latest iteration of one of college football's greatest rivalries.

    Associated Press
  • US knew flight path of plane downed by Turkey: Putin

    President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had given prior information to the United States of the flight path of the plane downed by Turkey on the Syrian border. "The American side, which leads the coalition that Turkey belongs to, knew about the location and time of our planes'…

  • Supreme Court justice blocks Native Hawaiian vote count

    HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Friday issued a temporary stay blocking the counting of votes in an election that would be a significant step toward Native Hawaiian self-governance.

    Associated Press19 mins ago
  • Miss Canada lashes out at Beijing after contest snub

    A Canadian beauty queen lashed out at Beijing on Friday, saying she was barred from boarding a flight from Hong Kong to China to compete in a pageant because of her human rights activism. Chinese-born Anastasia Lin, a 25-year-old actress crowned Miss World Canada in May, said that China was…

  • Former luncheonette owner chooses to die in her restaurant

    HOPEWELL, N.J. (AP) — A 78-year-old woman decided to spend her final hours last month — to her very last breath — in the now-shuttered New Jersey luncheonette she spent more than three decades running.

    Associated Press19 mins ago
  • Easing of China one-child policy too late for those who lost only child

    By Kim Kyung-Hoon BEIJING (Reuters) - Cui Wenlan was devastated when she heard the news last month that China was scrapping its one-child policy. Cui's story underscores the punitive nature of China's family planning policy, beyond the more well-known stories of forced abortions and sterilisations,…

  • The Democrats’ Problem with ‘Radical Islam’

    It’s time to call a spade a spade, and move on to real solutions of dealing with the Islamic State menace.

    Foreign Policy Magazine
  • Play

    Mystery Behind Coats Left Tied to Lamp Posts Solved

    A photo of the coats was shared by the Facebook page Halifolks, and Smith-Atkins said that post reached more than one million people. There's been plenty of praise for Smith-Atkins, who said she's got mixed emotions about the attention the gesture has received.

    ABC News
  • Governments take rose-tinted view of climate projections before summit

    By Alister Doyle OSLO (Reuters) - Before a summit on climate change in Paris next week, many governments are citing scientific studies indicating that their plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions until 2030 will come within 0.7 degrees Celsius of an agreed 2C (3.6 Fahrenheit) target for limiting…

  • Amazon’s top Black Friday deals of the day: Huge HDTVs, drones, streaming sticks and more

    Anyone who has been following our Black Friday 2015 coverage knows that Amazon has been offering killer deals all week long in an effort to reel shoppers in early ahead of Black Friday. The company’s week-long sale wasn’t a gimmick, either — it offered killer deals on thousands of different…

    BGR News
  • View

    The 89th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (51 photos)

    Marching bands, floats and the big balloons soared along with the crowd’s spirits on an unseasonably warm day as the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade made its way through the streets of New York City. The 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured 17 giant character balloons; 24…

    Yahoo News
  • Turkey-Russia spat over downed Russian warplane escalates

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A tug-of-war over a Russian warplane downed by a Turkish fighter jet at the border with Syria escalated Thursday, with Moscow drafting a slew of economic sanctions against Turkey and the Turkish president defiantly declaring that his military will shoot down any new intruder.

    Associated Press
  • Reporter mocked by Trump says the 2 knew each other well

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump said he couldn't have been making fun of a reporter's disability because he doesn't know the man. Not so, says the reporter.

    Associated Press
  • Mom And Sister Join Forces To Dictate Wedding Party

    DEAR ABBY: My mother and older sister are trying to spoil my happiness about my upcoming wedding. I have known my ex-stepmother, "Gina," for 20 years and have been best friends with her for the last 15. We remained close even after she divorced my biological father, who is not in the picture.I had…

    Dear Abby
  • New videos raise fresh questions in Chicago police shooting of black teen

    Newly released police dashboard camera videos from the scene of the shooting of a black teenager by a white Chicago patrolman could raise fresh questions over documentation of the killing, as the city braced for an organized protest march on Friday. Audio and video should be automatically activated…