“People are getting dumber. That’s not a judgment; it’s a global fact.”

Evan Horowitz examines the global phenomenon of declining IQ scores.

For a while, rising IQ scores seemed like clear evidence of social progress, palpable proof that humanity was getting steadily smarter — and might even be able to boost brainpower indefinitely. Scholars called it the “Flynn effect,” in homage to J.R. Flynn, the researcher who recognized its full sweep and import.

These days, however, Flynn himself concedes that “the IQ gains of the 20th century have faltered.” A range of studies using a variety of well-established IQ tests and metrics have found declining scores across Scandinavia, Britain, Germany, France and Australia.

Details vary from study to study and from place to place given the available data. IQ shortfalls in Norway and Denmark appear in longstanding tests of military conscripts, whereas information about France is based on a smaller sample and a different test. But the broad pattern has become clearer: Beginning around the turn of the 21st century, many of the most economically advanced nations began experiencing some kind of decline in IQ.

One potential explanation was quasi-eugenic. As in the movie “Idiocracy,” it was suggested that average intelligence is being pulled down because lower-IQ families are having more children (“dysgenic fertility” is the technical term). Alternatively, widening immigration might be bringing less-intelligent newcomers to societies with otherwise higher IQs.

However, a 2018 study of Norway has punctured these theories by showing that IQs are dropping not just across societies but within families. In other words, the issue is not that educated Norwegians are increasingly outnumbered by lower-IQ immigrants or the children of less-educated citizens. Even children born to high-IQ parents are slipping down the IQ ladder.

Some environmental factor — or collection of factors — is causing a drop in the IQ scores of parents and their own children, and older kids and their younger siblings … Ultimately, it’d be nice to pin down the precise reason IQ scores are dropping before we’re too stupid to figure it out, especially as these scores really do seem connected to long-term productivity and economic success.

There’s more at the link.

I’d like to suggest three factors:

  1. The decline in standards of education.  In too many First World nations, education now consists of focusing on feelings and groupthink, rather than facts and individual effort.  “Tall poppy syndrome” appears to be in effect, where outstanding scholars are actively discouraged from proceeding as fast as they’re able;  and shamed into hiding their talent so as to be more socially acceptable to their less bright peers.  There’s also too much emphasis on politically correct shibboleths du jour, rather than the three R’s and other fundamental areas.  (I can still remember being forced to learn my multiplication tables in primary school, and getting my knuckles rapped – literally, with a heavy ruler – whenever I got them wrong.  It’s basic mathematical knowledge that has stood me in good stead every day of my life.  I’m baffled by today’s kids, who have to reach for a calculator – or the calculator app on their smartphones – when faced with basic arithmetical problems like that.)
  2. The over-reliance on technology.  Smartphones, tablets, personal computers and the like have made it trivially easy to look up almost anything, anywhere, at any time.  There’s no sense of the need to internalize knowledge, to make it part of oneself.  Even worse, kids aren’t taught how libraries and reference indices work.  I can remember hours spent going through card index drawers, researching projects and looking for sources.  (Heck, I was chief librarian at my high school – keeping the index properly organized was part of my job!)  Kids today wouldn’t even know where to start looking for that stuff, if their electronic aids were suddenly shut down or taken away.  I think that’s a serious drawback.
  3. The lack of education in how to think logically and rationally.  I think a basic foundation in philosophy, logic, reasoning and applying one’s mind to problems is a fundamental need that underlies and empowers almost every other aspect of education.  (For example, I was pretty hopeless at mathematics until I was introduced to a short book called “First Steps in Logic“.  It analyzed arguments by reducing them to symbolic logic form, and applying strict rules of reasoning.  Suddenly, math [which is nothing more than a series of logical operations on numbers and formulae] made a whole lot more sense.  I went on to apply the same basic rules to designing computer programs in my early 20’s.  Philosophy and logic weren’t outdated at all, but fundamental to my early success.)

Those are my primary guesstimates, anyway.  I’m sure readers can contribute their own insights.

I don’t think IQ is so much declining as being “dumbed down” by an education system that discourages intellectual curiosity and personal growth in favor of communal touchy-feely mind-gropery and political correctness.  Get rid of the latter, and you’ll solve the former.  Leave the latter in place, and the former will only get worse.



  1. When they ONLY teach the tests, there is no actual teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic, much less history.

  2. The source article is from NBC News. Given how left the mainstream media is these days, I thought leftists considered IQ to be merely a social construct and that it does not represent anything real.

    Perhaps NBC News can clarify this point for us.

  3. To expand on Old NFO, when they only teach what they want to teach, not teach the whole truth, then is when you get problems. Teaching for the tests only is the end culmination of progressive education.

    Funny, how anything with the word 'progressive' always seems to be regressive.

    Another part of the equation is the 'everyone must be taught together' concept. Back when I was in school, we were split into 'phases' based on, well, IQ and ability, and were taught in groups of phases. Smart people, phase 5 and mostly smart, phase 4, often were lumped together, but the phase 5 people tended to go into advanced placement classes.

    Phase 3 people got general classes, good enough for shop and auto mechanic, but weren't forced to learn advanced math like Pre-Calculus.

    Phase 2 were, um, the special eds.

    Phase 1 were kept out of regular school and sent to the local special ed school.

    Nowadays we lump everyone together and hold the phase 5 and 4 to the speed of the phase 3, and unfortunately our teachers tend to be phase 3 level people to begin with, thus perpetuating the problem.

    Here's how to fix it. Require competency tests of teachers. If you can't do it, you can't teach it. Get rid of the chaff. Hire older tech and science people to do the tech and science teaching. Go back to more technical school programs instead of more 'arts magnet' schools.

    Actually stop promoting people for the sake of promoting people. If you can't pass a grade, then you repeat it. But fix the teaching system first.

    Man, I am soapbox crazy today. Sorry, must be something in the air.

  4. Since IQ isn't really a test of intelligence, be sure this isn't changing culture / education relative to the test.

    IQ tests are also "education tests". Recently an IQ test for an elementary school kid asked them to name the world's oceans. Somebody can be the most intelligent person around but without having learned geography won't be able to answer.

    More notorious was in World War One, when the US army claimed that some high (30% I think) percentage of recruits were "morons". But the IQ test used asked people to name what engine went in what automobile and similar knowledge questions. At a time when the automobile was a relative rarity, especially in rural America, many / most recruits would have barely seen automobiles let alone know about their internals.

    Throughout history (going back to Ancient Greece) there are reports that the younger generation is less intelligent, more rebellious, etc. than the current generation. Yet somehow society keeps going on.

    Lower IQ scores might be a cause for concern and further investigation, but I for one am not too concerned.

  5. Peter,
    I agree with you and all 3 comments made to date. In order to succeed in todays society a high school education is the bare minimum required, and collage is where you go to get one.
    When my children were in school we had parent-teacher days and I was amazed at the low level of intellegance and education their teachers displayed.
    I graduated high school in 1962 and we were required to learn a subject before we were passed to another grade.
    At home (dairy farm) my foster father and mother would make us do chores and if we ran into a problem we were told to figure it out. This forced me to think.
    In some cases where the problem was beyond our abilities they would then show us how to do whatever repair was needed, but only once.
    Our society has drifted away from this school/home educational requirements for our children to the detriment of society as a whole.
    Paul in Texas

  6. Peter, I agree with all your points. And with those of your readers. But it is sad when college has to teach you what grade school was supposed to.

    And I don't know how many colleges are doing that, when you can get degrees in Klingon, etc.

    Hubby told me of an article he read on how humanity has stopped evolving. Just sad.

  7. I remember reading "1984" in high school and thinking "People will never be that stupid."

    Well, guess what?

  8. LindaG – part of the problem we as humans are experiencing is the lack of, to put it bluntly, accidental deaths of those unwilling to learn.

    As an example, used to be, in the old days before Narcan, an overdose meant death. Now, in the days of Narcan, an overdose means some jerk will take your high away and you can go overdose again. And then these jerks who overdose for fun, breed and pass on their culture of stupidity.

    Lack of consequences has allowed us humans to be more stupid than ever. Why work and be careful when you'll be taken care of?

  9. Here's another explanation for your consideration:
    "At Our Wits' End: Why We're Becoming Less Intelligent and What it Means for the Future" by Edward Dutton

  10. Beans, that is so true. I remember probably ten or twelve years ago, my oldest boy was let go from Lowe's, where he was the Lawn and Garden Manager. He got on unemployment. They were in the process of getting ready to go to England where his wife was going to get a doctorate in some liberal something-or other. Well, in the meantime he was looking for a part time job for three or four months and realized after a few weeks of looking, he would be better off to stay on unemployment until they left.

    Now, I can't really complain. When they came back from England, he put himself through college with various work-study programs and just graduated from UNC-Greensboro. He was scouted (not sure if that is the right term) by several universities from the four corners of the country, and I recently learned that he accepted and will be working at George Mason University. Annoyed that it is liberal, but happy for him.

    Sorry. Got way off track. As I was saying, when unemployment is better than working, that's a problem.
    When everyone passes so no one "feels bad", that's a problem.
    When thousands and millions can come here illegally, and be given free care and welfare, without doing anything to earn it; that's a big problem.
    And academia (and socialist demonrats) seem quite happy to turnout untold numbers of people unwilling to learn.

    Sometimes Darwin should be left to sort things out. But then we'd be inhuman. Or inhumane, or some such.

  11. This is merely the end result of the Progressives takeover of the education system, starting back in the late 1800's. They didn't like the idea of bright people working in factories, as they thought that would be a breeding ground for social unrest, and bad for business. They deliberately dumbed down the citizens here in the US, and this was copied in the rest of the world.

    The clown that developed the library organization system was a prime driver of this idiocy.

  12. @Flugelman:


    Between "1984" and "Brave New World" we were warned. Our "leadership" has decided to use these as manuals.

  13. @LindaG. Maybe your son can take some courses taught by Walter E. Williams is he ends up at George Mason.

  14. 4) Too many children of single mothers.

    This makes it almost impossible to improve gov't (not "public") education. Higher probability of such kids causing problems in classes. When there are some 3 or more problematic kids in one class, the class has a huge drop in productivity, the downward S curve.

  15. I'm not too concerned about it all, to be quite honest.

    Whatever we're measuring with the IQ test, I don't think it really correlates very well to real-world performance or actual attainment. Everyone says it does, but… There's a bit of a problem with it all: The whole thing is circular. Do well on the tests, and you're going to get a leg up into environments where the things that the tests measure enable you to be successful, and you undergo even more grooming along those same lines. And, at the end of it all, they look at you, after those early tests got you to those places, and say "Oh, what a success we have! We've measured their intelligence, and, see, they've done well…".

    Circular and self-referential is what the whole thing is. And, the products of this system have been running things, in their dear autistic ways, for how long? Look around you, for the results: The self-proclaimed (who, after all, wrote the tests…) smart people have been running all these cities like San Francisco and Seattle. Think we might have done better with some dummies running things, maybe? Ones with some friggin' common sense?

    The whole IQ testing regime has given us the mess we're in, and I'll be glad to see it go. They mistook the ability to do well on some tests for virtue, and used those tests to leverage themselves and their fellow autistic idiot savants into positions of great power and responsibility. Look around you, at the world they created: Do you like it? Does it work? Is the sum total of human misery reduced? Do more people have a productive role in society, or has our intelligentsia chosen to jettison the lot of us for less troublesome foreigners?

    We went down the wrong track with this whole thing, starting around the turn of the 19th Century. Getting back on the right track may not be doable, without a total societal collapse.

  16. The book Ron referenced covers it better then anything else I've ever seen and shows it's been an issue for longer then any of us have been alive, it's been going down hill since about the industrial revolution.

  17. @Peter

    Why do you suggest wrong reasons for these losses?(

    We already fucking well know what causes high and low IQ. It's up to 80% genetic. What can lower it is malnutrition, mistreatment or severe exposure to certain chemicals. Education doesn't really affect it.

    IQ is getting lower because the high-minded individuals who pushed for female equality didn't realize that pushing women into universities and the corporate rat race is going to lead them to spend their most fertile years avoiding having children. But hey, mission accomplished, we vastly increased the workforce and thus kept wages lower! Yay!

    So, the more educated the woman is the less likely she is to have children. In Germany, iirc, like a third of women with university degrees are childless.

  18. Can somebody please elaborate for me on Will's comment? Combined with some of Aesop's recent mention of 'Trivium,' I'm starting to have a dawning awareness of exactly why I thought my 12 years of public education was a waste of time. Still trying to figure it out.

  19. Iodine deficiency and bromine/fluoride poisoning will shave off several points, more in severe cases. Bromine replaced iodine as a dough conditioner in most bread in America a few decades back. Read “The Iodine Crisis”. Dumbs you down, kills your ambition. Brominated vegetable oil in citrus soft drinks is another big source. One of the Gulf War meds is one third bromine.

  20. John Taylor Gatto nailed this in his book "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling" 25 years ago.

    I think isolation from nature and the responsibility of providing for your own food and general well-being also plays a role.

    When you're working out in the garden or field, the most successful are those where the gardener/farmer pays attention to the environment and needs of the plants. Sure, you can search symptoms, but knowing your soil and your plants and paying attention to the daily conditions is far more effective than any app. When your next meal depends on success, it forces your attention to the problem at hand.

    I've been gardening close to half a century, and each year is different. I am always learning.

    The hands on skills like woodworking and sewing aren't taught anymore, either. Your brain builds more and different connections when you're actively creating versus looking at text or video.

  21. Several thoughts:

    – Widespread use of contraceptives have ensured that a greater proportion of those born will be conceived by high-impulse individuals, who will not restrain their urges long enough to sprint down to the drugstore.

    – Yes, the highest-intellect women are less likely to go into teaching, particularly in elementary and Liberal Arts certifications. The math and science teachers have to pass Praxis tests in their subject area, which keeps the truly dumb out. The non-STEM teachers have to pass the test, as well, but they aren't nearly as challenging.

    You might think this would lead to more qualified teachers, but what happens is that schools often have to fill the positions with subs, or foreign teachers.

    – The culture as a whole enshrines reckless, self-serving, MeMeMe bahavior. Introverts are penalized.

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