Instapundit calls attention to a study showing a 5-point IQ decline between men born in 1975 and those born in 1991 — between Generation X and Millennials, in other words — and researchers blame this on increased childhood time spent on computers, smartphones and videogames. Ace follows this with research showing that too much screen time contributes to psychiatric disorders among children.Let's step back and look at the Flynn Effect:
While I don’t deny the destructive influence of all these gadgets, I think this research underestimates the ways in which demographic decadencehas contributed to the decline in IQ. The problems that Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein described in The Bell Curve are highly relevant to any such discussion. If effective contraceptives are widely available, and if there are social pressures on young women to pursue college education and professional careers, fewer highly intelligent women will become mothers, and those who do become mothers will have fewer children. If the smartest women have the fewest children (and this is the general trend that has developed over the past 50 years), then the overall average IQ of the population will decline. This is not an opinion, but a fact — the science is settled — and our policy-makers have been ignoring the dysgenic trend for too long. Instead, we have doubled-down on a rhetoric of “empowerment” for women that is anti-natalist in effect, if not also in intent. There are limits to what can be done, in a free society, to reverse the disastrous demographic trends that have afflicted the United States in the past half-century. However, when we witness evidence of degeneracy, we ought not to pretend that we don’t know what we’re actually seeing, or what is causing our society’s descent into idiocy.
Could saying this be considered . . . offensive?
The Flynn effect is the substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores that were measured in many parts of the world over the 20th century. When intelligence quotient (IQ) tests are initially standardized using a sample of test-takers, by convention the average of the test results is set to 100 and their standard deviation is set to 15 or 16 IQ points. When IQ tests are revised, they are again standardized using a new sample of test-takers, usually born more recently than the first. Again, the average result is set to 100. However, when the new test subjects take the older tests, in almost every case their average scores are significantly above 100.I'm sure several factors are involved in the current decline of IQ. Certainly, as Stacy suggests, in most of the civilized world, many intelligent people are self-selecting against intelligence by having fewer or no children. I think that's true, but probably not enough to account for a drop in the average IQ of 5 points in the time period cited.
Test score increases have been continuous and approximately linear from the earliest years of testing to the present. For the Raven's Progressive Matrices test, a study published in the year 2009 found that British children's average scores rose by 14 IQ points from 1942 to 2008. Similar gains have been observed in many other countries in which IQ testing has long been widely used, including other Western European countries, Japan, and South Korea.
He also notes the demographic changes are also probably involved. It's a non-PC fact that intelligence in the first world tends to be higher than in the third world, and migrations from the latter to the former will only serve to dampen IQ growth. While the immigrants may (and probably will) see IQ rises due to whatever drives the Flynn effect upon integration into western culture, initially the effect is likely to dilute the higher IQ of the countries they migrate to.
And then, how much could the screen time issue contribute? I tend to think that at least initially, TV was a powerful positive force in the Flynn Effect, bringing the culture and raw information to people that had traditionally not been exposed to much. But has the switch to computer based screen time reversed that, with video games, and social media giving less experiences outside the viewers life experiences?
As usual, I prefer explanations that contain multiple factors to blaming a single one.