Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Entry archive:

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

How clever are you? Western IQs dropping, new study says Add to ...

A new study says the average IQ in Western countries has dropped 14 points since the Victorian era, whatever that was.

(“The Victorian era” is the name given to the 63-year reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria, from 1837-1901, a period of growth and innovation that was considered the pinnacle of British power, confidence and global influence.)

More Related to this Story

“The Victorian era was marked by an explosion of innovation and genius, per capita rates of which appear to have declined subsequently,” according to the abstract of the study published last week in the journal Intelligence.

It turns out that visual reaction times, thought to be a basic measure of human intelligence, have been measured since 1889. Researchers took all the age-matched data on reaction times from then until 2004, calculated out the variables and determined that there had been an average decline of 1.23 IQ points per decade, for a total decline since the Victorian era of 14 points.

“These findings strongly indicate that … the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations,” the study’s authors declared.

One explanation for the decline is the fact that, according to other recent studies, intelligent women tend to have fewer children even as the planet’s population explodes. That means there are fewer high IQ children in a bigger population, which would bring down the average.

IQ scores are devised so that the mean score is always 100, with a standard deviation of 15 points either way. This means that, at the current rate of decline, in another 200 years an IQ of 75 will become the mean.

Under today’s measurements, a person with an IQ of 75 has a 50/50 chance of getting into high school, whatever that is.

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular