Handing over his long Edwardian frock coat and gold pince-nez to Heitor Fernandes and Aurelio José Figueredo, his Latin seconds, Woodley bounded into the ring and opened the first round in traditional fashion, with a well managed and elegant abstract, which I replay for you below.
The Victorians were Still Cleverer than us: Expanding the Dysgenic Nexus
Michael A. Woodley1, Heitor B. F. Fernandes2, & Aurelio José Figueredo3
1Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Research, VUB, Belgium.
2Departments of Psychology and Genetics, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
3Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, USA.
It is theorized that dysgenic effects and the Flynn effect co-occur, with the former concentrated on highly heritable g (Woodley & Meisenberg, 2013) and the latter on less-heritable non-g sources of IQ variance (te Nijenhuis & van der Flier, 2013). Evidence for this comes from the observation that 19th century populations were more intellectually productive (Huebner, 2005; Murray, 2003; Woodley, 2012; Woodley & Figueredo, 2013), and also exhibited faster reaction times than modern ones (Woodley et al. 2013), suggesting that g has declined independently of any subsequent improvements that may have occurred with respect to narrower cognitive abilities. We conduct a new test of this model by examining historical changes in the frequencies of the utilization of words from the highly g-loaded WORDSUM test across 5.9 million texts spanning from 1850 to 2005. We find, consistent with predictions, that the item-level difficulties (δ parameters derived from Item Response Theory analysis) of these words predict the degree to which the words decline in use over time even when word obsolescence and temporal autocorrelation are explicitly controlled using Multi Level Modelling (the interaction of word difficulty with time negatively predicted word frequencies – b = -.09; semipartial r = -.09; the time variable was log transformed). When considered independently, predicted year-on-year word frequency trends furthermore revealed that the four high-difficulty (and presumably more g loaded) words trended negatively across time whereas the six low-difficult words exhibit no systematic changes in utilization with time. Given that the populations from which WORDSUM participant birth cohorts are sampled are known to have been in persistent dysgenic fertility since 1900 (Lynn & van Court, 2004; van Court & Bean, 1985) we interpret these trends as evidence that contributors to texts and their target audiences might have experienced dysgenic declines in general intelligence since the mid-19th century. These new findings increase the breadth of the nomological net of historiometric, psychometric and evolutionary biological findings indicating persistent dysgenic declines in g amongst Western populations since the mid-19th century.
In round 2 Woodley lays out his case in detail, which will begin after the one minute rest interval (which in publishing time rather than boxing time means about a week or two).