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Were the Victorians cleverer than us?: The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.
Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Ireland.
2013 (English)In: Intelligence, ISSN 0160-2896, E-ISSN 1873-7935, Vol. 41, no 6, Special Issue: SI, 843-850 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The Victorian era was marked by an explosion of innovation and genius, per capita rates of which appear to have declined subsequently. The presence of dysgenic fertility for IQ amongst Western nations, starting in the 19th century, suggests that these trends might be related to declining IQ. This is because high-IQ people are more productive and more creative. 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. Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence (g) and are considered elementary measures of cognition. In this study we used the data on the secular slowing of simple reaction time described in a meta-analysis of 14 age-matched studies from Western countries conducted between 1889 and 2004 to estimate the decline in g that may have resulted from the presence of dysgenic fertility. Using psychometric meta-analysis we computed the true correlation between simple reaction time and g, yielding a decline of -1.16 IQ points per decade or -13.35 IQ points since Victorian times. These findings strongly indicate that with respect to g the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2013. Vol. 41, no 6, Special Issue: SI, 843-850 p.
Keyword [en]
Dysgenic, Genetic g, IQ, Simple reaction time, Psychometric meta-analysis
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URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-85106DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2013.04.006ISI: 000327807300012OAI: diva2:691610

Special Issue: The Flynn Effect Re-Evaluated

Available from: 2014-01-28 Created: 2014-01-28 Last updated: 2016-07-01Bibliographically approved

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Woodley, Michael A.
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