we’re more dumberer than the victorians (part 4)

michael woodley and co. have discovered a bit of modern research on reaction times very (but not exactly) like galton’s late nineteenth century research in london which they feel supports their claims that western iqs have gone down by 14.1 points since the victorian era.

maybe.

it’s a VERY interesting study, but i’m still not 100% convinced. if the study and its findings are replicated, i might be! (^_^)

i left a comment over there @dr. james thompson’s blog, but, as of the writing of this post, it hadn’t been approved, so i reproduce below.

look forward to more research into this question! neat (and important!) stuff!

“cool study! thanks for drawing it to everyone’s attention, and … yes, i agree … the design of this study seems to be much closer to galton’s original study, so yeah … lots of little red flags should be raised! (^_^)

“personally, i’m still not 100% convinced, though, because i dislike the fact that we have to use *indirect* means to check that the samples are similar — for example, having to rely on eckstein and feist to tell us who, *in general* british museum goers are. i wish wilkinson and allison would’ve just told us *directly* who their participants were! and as for the ethnicity question — that the subjects were white is not enough. they need to be white *brits*. if, for instance, they had too many southern italians or southern spaniards or even irish folks in their study, etc., etc., that might again have dragged down (or up, rather) the scores … *somewhat*.

“(wrt to question of paying for admission, we’ve got indirect evidence for that here as well. a quick email to wilkinson or allison should be able to answer that question. keep in mind, too, that presumably only *some* of galton’s subjects paid a museum entrance fee since on three or four days a week [don’t recall which it was] admission was free to the museum.)

“nevertheless, these are some very interesting results. what would be great, of course, would be to see this study *repeated* and the results *replicated*. if i were to design such a study, i’d make sure that it was in every way possible identical to galton’s, that way there’d be no questions about the sampling, etc. it’d also be cool to test the same individuals’ reaction times on *both* an old, galton-type machine AND a modern one to see exactly how the machines compare.

“in lieu of such a study (or better yet, in conjunction with it), i really think you guys should delve into that 1984-85 health & lifestyle study from the u.k., because they recorded ethnicity and, presumably, ses, so you could get at a sample like galton’s that way. of course, then you’d be left with a modern machine in that instance. i leave the reliability of the machines discussions up to other folks. (and the correlation of rts to iq discussion, too.)

“thanks again, guys!”

previously: we’re dumber than the victorians and btw, about those victorians… and a response to a response to two critical commentaries on woodley, te nijenhuis & murphy (2013)

(note: comments do not require an email. idiocracy – von dem macher von “beavis und butt-head”!)

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17 Comments

  1. According to “The Economic History of Britain Since 1700: Volume 2 : 1860-1939” [Roderick Floud, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey; Cambridge University Press, 1994]:-

    “About a million Irish immigrants entered Britain (net of returns) between 1841 and 1911, of which 600,000 had arrived by 1861.”

    See link:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FnCqD7Xfsz8C&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=600000+irish+immigrants+britain&source=bl&ots=ENK9jZ6k-V&sig=gTKtrxC6sNX8NSmIM7RLxQvxIjw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oHCnUYGoE8eV0AWV5YAQ&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=600000%20irish%20immigrants%20britain&f=false

    This would suggest a very high proportion of today’s British population have Irish ancestry, not even taking account of the further large-scale Irish immigration in the inter-war and post-war periods. (There was also immigration to Britain 1840-1910 by Germans, Italians, and eastern European Ashkenazi Jews, although on a much smaller scale). Could the 19th century Irish immigration to Britain have had any impact on reducing IQ or RT in present-day Brits relative to Victorian ones I wonder?

    Reply

  2. OK, at this point I’m definitely convinced. I believe a lot of things on less evidence than this.

    Reply

  3. @daybreaker – “OK, at this point I’m definitely convinced. I believe a lot of things on less evidence than this.”

    i would happily bet a dime … no, a quarter! … on some sort of decline, but i’m still not convinced by the 14.1 points. maybe. i need more evidence. (^_^)

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  4. @chris davies – “Could the 19th century Irish immigration to Britain have had any impact on reducing IQ or RT in present-day Brits relative to Victorian ones I wonder?”

    dunno. you’d think not the full 14.1 points, but perhaps some amount of it. they ought to be taken into account, anyway, since 1) presumably they weren’t much of a part of galton’s sample, and 2) some iq studies from ireland, at least in the past, show some low iq scores.

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  5. I just listened to a show on Smithsonian last night where they quoted Titanic survivors from all social classes verbatim. Not scientific at all, but those folks from 1913 certainly sounded more intelligent than the average person today.

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  6. The Irish immigration would have the effect of RAISING the IQ score,dummy. The so-called low Irish IQ has been discredited;either that or their is a bunch of radioactive water in the Shannon as Irish IQ’s have jumped 10 points ina decade.

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  7. @hbd chick

    Woodley’s new matched analysis of museum visiors actually *disposes* of the possibility that the apparent slowing of reaction time since Voctorian times was due to confounding by social class.

    IF the slower RT in moderns was due to the sample being of lower social class, THEN even a partial control for this confounding (it certainly does not have to be *perfect* control – but the 1989 museum visitor study does in fact introduce a very substantial degree of control) would significantly reduce the reaction time.

    So IF having lower social class really was indeed a significant factor in making modern reaction times slower than a more upper class Victorian sample – THEN a modern upper social class sample would be expected to have faster reaction times than the mixed class modern sample (supposedly of lower social class) from Woodley et al’s meta-analysis.

    But the modern upper class museum visitor sample has an RT of 245 milliseconds compared with the modern RT in Woodley’s mixed meta-analysis average of 250 ms. 245ms is the SAME as 250 ms – there has been NO significant effect of controlling for the supposed confounder of social class.

    THEREFORE social class is NOT a significant confounder for Reaction Times in Woodley et al’s meta-analysis.

    It would be a waste of time doing more and more precisely ‘controlled’ experiments to try and control for social class after it has been shown NOT to be a confounder.

    Reply

  8. @OralCummings: “The Irish immigration would have the effect of RAISING the IQ score,dummy. The so-called low Irish IQ has been discredited;either that or their is a bunch of radioactive water in the Shannon as Irish IQ’s have jumped 10 points ina decade.”

    Maybe so, the IQ of the Irish is something I can’t claim to be an expert on. I am just throwing ideas around.

    However:-

    “So we are left with strong evidence that in the early 1970s, the Irish IQ averaged 87, the lowest figure anywhere in Europe and a full standard deviation below than that of Irish-Americans..”

    [Taken from: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/race-iq-and-wealth/ ].

    Reply

  9. @bruce – “It would be a waste of time doing more and more precisely ‘controlled’ experiments to try and control for social class after it has been shown NOT to be a confounder.”

    social class is not the only issue. and, anyway, we don’t know for sure what the actual classes of these visitors were — we can only infer that from a secondary, unrelated source.

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  10. i am 90-95% convinced that there’s been a real decline in reaction time, just not 14 points. i am 0% convinced that it’s 14 points.

    i remain agnostic as to whether said decline (whatever the actual number is) is genotypic (due to dysgenic factors) and/or other things like poor dietary habits (everybody’s FAT – does that make you sluggish as well?), pathogens, etc.

    (i reserve the right to be totally and completely, utterly wrong! (~_^) )

    Reply

  11. (i reserve the right to be totally and completely, utterly wrong! (~_^) )

    You, you…. HUMAN!!!!!!11!!11111eleven!

    Reply

  12. If the idea is that White Brits have dumbed down then that’s very hard to prove this way. I’m sure actress Troian Bellisario would pass as “solidly White”. But it does support the idea that today’s Britain is multicultural and for that reason less intelligent than it was in the Victorian era. Although that’s a bit obvious.

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  13. @hbd chick ” if the study and its findings are replicated, i might be!” Well here’s a sample of a couple. Many years ago when I was a teenager child I met my Uncle Cousin Herbert Lester. I challenged him to a game. I hold my hands out palm up. You place your palms on mine. I attempte to slap the back of one of your hands before you can move it away. If I miss you get to hold your hands out palm up. It is a simple game of reaciotion time. Uncle Cousin Herbert Lester beat the crap out of me.
    Then a couple weeks ago I was playing with my nephew’s sons. They challenged me to the same game. I won easily.
    Now maybe something else is going on like old geezers are less in inhibited about striking young people than young people are about striking geezers. Or maybe we are all getting dumber. In this case we are all Scotch Irish (you guessed that because what we think is fun is what others would call violence) and the nutrition and general health are unchanged over the more than century the test covers.

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  14. “and the nutrition and general health are unchanged over the more than century the test covers.”

    There’s a lot more gluten in the food today, not to mention all the artificial food additives, hormones, etc.

    Reply

  15. “you guessed that because what we think is fun is what others would call violence”

    heh

    Reply

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