People in advanced countries have been getting smarter for decades; that's the Flynn effect. Researchers have been arguing for quite a while about when the Flynn effect is going to level off. Now Flynn says that in Great Brain, his eponymous effect has actually reversed:
Tests carried out in 1980 and again in 2008 show that the IQ score of an
average 14-year-old dropped by more than two points over the period.
Among those in the upper half of the intelligence scale, a group that is
typically dominated by children from middle class families, performance was
even worse, with an average IQ score six points below what it was 28 years
What's the story? Flynn's willing to speculate:
"It looks like there is something screwy among British teenagers,"
said Professor Flynn. "While we have enriched the cognitive environment
of children before their teenage years, the cognitive environment of the
teenagers has not been enriched.
"What we know is that youth culture is more visually orientated around
computer games than they are in terms of reading and holding conversations."
Professor Flynn also believes that the larger drop in IQ among the upper half
of the ability range could be due to effects of social class.
He said: "IQ gains are typically correlated by class, but the results in
this case are very mixed. Maybe the rebellious peer culture of the lower
half of British society has invaded the peer culture of the upper half."
Admittedly, this is just one study. I'm still amazed by how much smarter popular culture is than it was back in the 80s, and dismissive toward all complaints about "the kids these days." But I'll be keeping my ears perked up for further developments.