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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Not so smart no more

IQ scores are falling, at least for Norwegian men, writes Scottie Andrew in Newsweek.

For most of the 20th century, IQ scores have risen steadily in developed countries: The “Flynn effect” is attributed to better nutrition, health care and access to education.


A Norwegian study analyzing male draftees found a steady rise for those born between 1962 and 1975 and a steady decline for those born after 1975.

Researchers blamed “changes in quality of education, increased exposure to media and poor nutrition,” writes Andrew. They ruled out the effects of immigration — they studied only the scores of the sons of Norwegian-born parents — and lower fertility among more intelligent people.

“It’s possible that the nature of intelligence is changing in the digital age and cannot be captured with traditional IQ tests,” speculates the Times of London.

IQs also are falling for British teenagers, concludes James Flynn, the University of Otago (New Zealand) professor who first identified the rising IQ trend. Losses were greater for higher-scoring teens. “What we know is that youth culture is more visually orientated around computer games than they are in terms of reading and holding conversations,” he told the Telegraph.

Researchers started noting a reverse Flynn effect in some countries about a decade ago, writes Reason‘s Ronald Bailey.

As George Mason University economist Tyler Cowan pithily puts it, “We have started building a more stupidity-inducing environment. Or at least the Norwegians have.”

Americans are still getting smarter, according to a 2018 review article by Flynn and a colleague, writes Bailey. “America continued to show a steady rate of average IQ gain from 1989 to 2014 at about its historic rate of .3 IQ points per year.”

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