Is the world getting dumber?

World_IQ_graph Well, the world IS getting dumber …

suggests an article in London’s Daily Mail newspaper, August 21.

Technology may be getting smarter, but humans are getting dumber, scientists have warned.Evidence suggests that the IQs of people in the UK, Denmark and Australia have declined in the last decade.Opinion is divided as to whether the trend is long-term, but some researchers believe that humans have already reached intellectual peak.”

I know the statistics presented and studies analyzed were only in the countries mentioned above, but from my perspective, I would say the growing dumber problem is not just in those three Western countries. The United States, as a leader in technology’s introduction and use, is probably leading the parade…DOWN.

1408624684843_wps_6_Confused_Student_in_LibraThe most pessimistic explanation as to why humans seem to be becoming less intelligent is that we have effectively reached our intellectual peak. Between the 1930s and 1980s, the average IQ score in the US rose by three points and in post-war Japan and Denmark, test scores also increased significantly.

But I don’t buy that. I believe there are three major influences that are putting downward pressure on young peoples’ potential IQ’s:

1. Excessive availability and use of digital devices, especially among the younger age cohorts.

Now I know that many “progressive” (in more ways than one) parents can’t wait to get their children’s hands around an iPad or other mobile device. They foolishly think that will accelerate their kids’ learning and put them ahead of the Joneses for college admissions or something. In fact just the opposite lurks. A Kaiser Foundation study found that children and youth use 4-5 times the recommended amount of technology, with potential serious and often life threatening consequences (Kaiser Foundation 2010, Active Healthy Kids Canada 2012).

images (2)You think that’s bad?  The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics  recommend infants aged under 2 years should not have any exposure to technology; kids 3-5 years restricted to one hour a day, and 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day! Did you get that mom and dad?

2. Excessive dependence on digital devices for companionship, basic life information and entertainment.

This one stems from the problem set up in #1 above. Young and even middle-age people today depend on their digital devices for way too many things. If you’re feeling lonely, text a friend or connect virtually through their Facebook or Instagram photos. Checking out at retail and not sure how much change you get from a $50.00 bill on a $46.21 purchase? No problem. Your cell phone calculator will tell you. Hell, rather than observe and learn from the rich, stimulating human theater going on around you, why not watch a movie on your device and listen through your ear buds. You may be physically on the subway, but not mentally.Tune out, man!

We shouldn’t be surprised that digital device addiction is growing at an alarming rate.

3. Fewer and fewer people read BOOKS anymore, and that is a bad thing.

The Atlantic has a piece titled The Decline of the American Book Lover. We’re talking here about all books, but the decline in read hard cover tomes is disturbing. From the Atlantic, “Without question, the American bookworm is a rarer species than two or three decades ago, when we didn’t enjoy today’s abundance of highly distracting gadgets. In 1978, Gallup found that 42 percent of adults had read 11 books or more in the past year. Today, Pew finds that just 28 percent hit the 11 mark.”

And for people who don’t read, their vocabulary is just like a muscle, it atrophies without use/exercise. And most educators accept that if vocabulary shrinks it threatens learning, confidence, future job prospects, relationships, and even the ability to understand a joke. And that means you’re DUMBER.

So there you have it. It appears people in the developed countries are losing little bits of their aggregate IQ over time. I would bet it is not as pronounced in Asian countries even with their astronomical rates of digital device use (probably because of the Asians stronger commitment to and parental pressure on education; but give them a generation or two and they may well drift down to more Western levels).

What’s it mean for branding?

Duh … I don’t know.

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