BBC article about IQ

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#1 2 October, 2016 - 23:09
Joined: 2 years 8 months ago

BBC article about IQ

Our IQs have never been higher – but it hasn’t made us smart

But it’s not just education; some researchers have argued that our whole world is now engineered to make us think in this way, thanks to an increasing reliance on technology. Where our great-grandparents may have grappled with typewriters, our parents struggled to program their video recorder, while children today learn to use a touchscreen from an early age. Even reading the schematic London Underground map may have been tough for someone in the 1900s who was used to seeing the world more literally, Flynn says. This progression has forced us to think in hierarchies and symbols, to learn how to follow rules and draw analogies – and it is now so widespread that we forget the cognitive leaps it requires.


Flynn compares it to physical exercise – we are shaped by our chosen sport. “The brain is a muscle – and a change in mental exercise influences the brain just as much as if you gave up swimming for weightlifting.”


Crucially, IQ is malleable over a lifetime. This means that the elderly can still gain ground, thanks to better overall health (which is linked to intelligence) and longer-lasting, more intellectually demanding careers keeping their brains active for longer and forestalling decline. “There has been such an enormous improvement that today someone of 70 just kills a person [of the same age] 15 years ago,” he says. Overall, the rate is about 11 points a decade, he says. Flynn himself could be proof of this. “My father never ran a step after 12 and he retired at 70. I exercise more and I’ve never retired.” The result is a healthier brain and more active mind.

What do you think?

(See also the related links below the thread for most discussions about IQ and IQ testing.)

4 October, 2016 - 07:49
Joined: 2 years 6 months ago

With everything related to IQ, I usually sigh. In social contexts, people attribute way too much to a number that mainly depends on two things, the kind of test you made and the amount of motivation you had to do the test.

In the netherlands, we have a National IQ test each year, which is probably the worst IQ test ever. It has various parts, some of which have to do with language. Last year we had one question that stuck with me, the test asked you to select the antonym of 'warm' (very hard question...) and one of the options was 'Italy'. I don't often tear my answers apart and go do something else, but after that question I just gave up because I knew I would score 50 or so, because I fail to see how anyone would even consider that a valid answer. Another part of that year's test was doing Word Search Puzzles with time pressure added... On this test the previous years, I once scored somewhere around 120, once around 90 and the year after that 145... consitency!

My point: Unless you use well-weighted IQ tests to make claims about IQ, your claims are as useless as diet water. But this is science! So lets say that they did get to the conclusion by comparing the results of correctly excecuted empirical studies, in a way that rules out any biased aspects of the human mind.

On this whole matter, I got a few things that I noticed over time. You can read them through for my experiences and arguements, or just skip to 'short version', because reasons!

My Opinion #1: We are forced to think in fantasies

Now this might be a bit of a stretch, but bear with me. I believe the mind is limited in the amount of stress it can take over a given time. After that it needs to relax, a way to do that is by drifting off. I mainly see that in my own (autistic) mind, whenever I get to a place where other people are present and stuff, I see/hear/smell/feel everything. That is tiring. To some autistic people, that is even an instant overload, which makes them go into a mental lockdown, a state in which they notice nothing at all (had a few of those myself)

Back to the 'normal' mind, I'd like to turn to my daughter. After a day of school, she is tired. Taking a look at what she has to do... I am not surprised. Dutch language, English language, basic calculations (addition, subtraction, single-digit multiplication), basic biology, basic geography, and that is just one day... Worst of al, she is 5 years old. Back when I was her age (20 years ago) I learned to 'draw' individual letters and throw a ball, for as far as educating things went.

there is so much to stuff in our brains nowadays, I can perfectly imagine people wanting an escape into a fantasy world and fictional stories that don't contribute to our knowledge.

My Opinion #2: We are told, not taught

Harold Eugene Edgerton said, "The trick to education is to teach people in such a way that they don't realize they're learning until it's too late".

That exact thing is an important thing to me, because we are educated by people working for a pay check, not people working because they have a passion to teach. To go on with the example of history given in the article. During my school years, I have had two main history teachers that stuck in my memory. One because he was the most horrible teacher ever. He sat down on his chair, grabbed a book, started reading, gave us homework and grabbed another book to casually read or a mirror to comb his mustache. At the end of the year, he didn't even know my name, Maya (no exaggeration, he literally didn't know any names). Which shouldn't be too hard to remember, especially for a history teacher since the dutch word for 'Mayan' is 'Maya'...

The other teacher however, was a man in his eighties who never retired until the day he died a few years ago. He looked old enough to have been around in every historic event ever, and he also told like he was. When the subject were the middle ages, he came teaching in full metal armor or robes worthy of being worn by a king, and everything he told was a first-person story embedded in a one-man play. One day we had police coming in, as the subject was the second world war and he brought the rifle that he carried while holding off the german invasion. Someone told the police that a teacher brought a firearm to the school, which by law is forbidden unless the weapon is made useless and you transport it using special cases and papers (which he all had). Two (armed) cops walked into the classroom to check it all out, with more cops outside, ready to come in should it be needed. The teacher quickly solved the matter within a minute, both calming all the students and making clear ot the cops that it is all fine, before carrying on with the story, during which the cops stayed because they just had to know how the story ended. Afterwards they told the teacher that in the few minutes they were there, they learned more about the second world war than in their entire time at school.

That man taught us everything we had to know in a way that didn't require us to do a tiny bit of effort, we left his classes with more energy than we walked in with. If only more people could teach the most boring subjects in a way like that, more people would be encouraged to learning. Currently, people learn to pass the test, and forget all they learned after they passed the test.

My opinion #3: we still suck at everything we sucked at before, it is just made easier.

Modern phones are a great example, and another big culprit if you ask me. You have the world in the palm of your hand, but we lack the ability to deal with that kind of responsibility. At my work I mainly see examples of how smart phones make dumb people. People who can't solve basic additions, people who don't know how to write many words of their native language (mistakes and dyslexia aside), even someone who thought ISIS was a major political party in the USA, running for presidency (though that might have less to do with the phones... and yes, I did choke on my lunch when I heard him say that).

Look around, everything is made easier. You no longer have to send pidgeons with stone carvings of your food to all your friends, you no longer have to chop trees to get wood in order to warm your Cinnamon Dolce Latte, and you no longer need to wait for the walking messenger to arrive at your door and give you the story of a celebrity getting plastic surgery on the other side of the world. Because those things are important so we need them right away!

Phones and computers remove our need to remember and to know to a level on which I have taken the habit of calling them "brain prostheses", as that is what they tend to be.

My Opinion 4: It all makes us more intelligent, but less smart

All things mentioned above, are to me part of the reasons that IQs went up. We have less knowledge but more skills, mental skills. I am willing to even go as far as to say that the aspect of fiction has contributed to the increase in rational and logical intelligence, because we learn to create images with our minds. Entire universes are created by neural connections that are triggered by words written on paper. That to me is a huge feat of creativity.

We no longer have to focus on hunting, we no longer have to focus on building, we no longer have to focus on remembering, so we can focus on developing.

My opinion #5: We have not become dumber, but more moment-aimed

This is actually an opinion that might be extremely biased, and it is a bit aimed towards the history-knowledge example from the article, but I wanted to share it anyway.

I feel like people care less about history, and more about the now and how it will affect the near future. We live in a time where people care more about what others are eating right now, than what happened hundreds of years ago. Where on the cause-effect chain this came to be, I don't know, but I do believe it is part of the consequnces of technological advancements. My uneducated thought here is that it might be because our mind has a limited intake, and more is happening nearby you at every given moment, thus you have less room for information of what has been and what will be.

While writing this, another thought comes to mind on this matter: we have no worries. We no longer need to know which berries we can pick as the supermarket won't offer any beautifully colored nightshades, like nature does. We no longer need to arm ourselves with swords and daggers as wars are fought with either words or weapons of mass destruction by those we picked to fight those wars for us.


Short Version
We are no longer encouraged to learn, while still being forced to learn things we will forget right after. Combine that with technological developments and we no longer have to do any effort to do anything. Society has also given us less needs to learn from the mistakes of our ancesters, as we feel like we no longer need them to survive.

But my mind is open, and when I rid it of the previous thoughts, a new one enters. The thought is a problem I got with the article, a big problem that reduced the scientificness of it to near-zero, according my mind.

I feel very strongly that mister Flynn is a man who compares his own knowledge to that of students. A man who has lived four times as long, who expects the younger generations to know what he knows. I get that feeling because the elders my family are the same. On my birthday a few months ago, my grandmother (79) was very disapproving towards the "modern education" my younger sister (18) had at school, because my sister knew almost nothing about the flooding of 1953 and the winter of 1963, two major events in Dutch history that my grandmother both experienced personally.

Adding to this, I often get complimented because my knowledge on a lot of subjects (thanks to mnemonics) is on par with my elders on a lot of subjects. And I don't get complimented in a way that says that I am above them in knowledge or skill, but that I am on the same level while most others of my age are far below...

So I am not too sure what is truely happening.
Are we getting dumber?
Is our focus shifted from historic knowledge to modern skills?
Or are people expecting 20-year old students to have the knowledge of 80 years of learning?

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