Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Woodley, M.A; te Nijenuis, J. & Murphy, R.
Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the secular slowing of simple reaction time.
Optional Fields
Reaction time Intelligence Dysgenics genetic g

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 IQ scores are excellent predictors of job performance and high-IQ persons 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 reaction time in a meta-analytic study. Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence and are therefore 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 1884 and 2004 to estimate the decline in general intelligence 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 -1.23 IQ points per decade or fourteen IQ points since Victorian times. These findings strongly indicate that with respect to g, the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations.

Grant Details