Study: undergraduate students now of average intelligence

Originally published at: Study: undergraduate students now of average intelligence - Boing Boing


This isn’t surprising. Most people are of average intelligence.


Is this an improvement, or what?


appears to be a slight (perhaps within the margin of error) decline:

In the 1950s, college students’ average IQ was above 115. Now it’s 102, albeit “correlated with the selectivity of universities.”

(man, hate it like @#$ when there’s dubious data which makes the vile right wing talking points super slimy easy)


Actually, rather than point to the rightwing’s preoccupation with “the worthlessness of university education”, doesn’t this point to the failure of state-run public education systems? And aren’t a lot of those states governed by the GOP?
ergo: We like 'em dumb and we’ll make that happen!

The Democrats should be pounding this home - the GOP is actively, purposefully making your children dumber.


That’s a feature to many of them.



I think the super easy explanation. The % of the population that goes to college has risen dramatically over that time period. Look at this graph. It went from 7.7% in 1960 to 38% today. In 1950 it was probably even lower, although the graph starts at 1960 so I don’t have the number.

So obviously, college in the 1950s was for the elite (I’m guessing 5%), and now it’s for nearly half the population, so of course the students went from elite to average.


It’s not a failure, if it was the intention all along.


well, but part of the point is that all of the things required to make you “intelligent” ( ie. score well on certain tests ) are geared to people with wealth. when people without wealth start going to college, the proxy wealth score is going to fall


Considering that a university undergrad degree is nearly ubiquitous for the truly brilliant, those legacy admission programs must really be letting in some complete morons to drag the average down like that! Not like Jared, though; I’m sure he’s very very smart.


I don’t quite get the point of this study which basically shows that having more schools means more people attend thus you better sample the population and get a closer estimate of the population IQ.

They also gloss over an important point that the larger institutes are really hard to get into now due to the competition. My students today all had high school grades waaay above the averages that were required when I started University. So there is no way this effect is uniform across programs and schools.

Also I couldnt find a link to the longer form article but I wonder how they dealt with the fact that population IQ measures have been increasing (Flynn effect
Flynn effect - Wikipedia) since the early time points the mentioned partly due to more people being educated… For e.g. many people not finishing High School in the 40s likely skewed the mean of the IQ scale vs today.

And finally IQ just isnt that usefull of a metric. It’s usefull in my field to identify clinically relevant deficits, and extreme highs might be usefull to some. But I am not convinced such broad statements can be made from a pretty small difference over decades of different means? What is the effect size in this study?


Given the uselessness of IQ tests, and that they primarily measure how well a person is inculcated into white culture, the increasing diversity of college campuses would almost inevitably lead to a “drop” in IQ. “Much sound and fury signifying nothing” would be an equally valid way to sum this up. But there will be a certain wing of the political circus that will use this as evidence of the “damage” DEI has done to higher education. Yeah, fuck them.


Ok one more thing to question. This sentence from the paper is very misleading.

“Second, employers can no longer rely on applicants with university degrees to be more capable or smarter than those without degrees.”

I am not convinced my University degrees made me smarter, but they sure as hell made me more capable in my specific field. I definitely can better formulate relevent problems, and research topics, more rapidly due to both relevent background knowledge and skill aquisition. There is a reason some careers require a specific degree…

Also define “smarter”.


Right, clearly. Solving puzzle tests correlates with wealth and when you expand colleges to less wealthy you’re going to get people who are not as good at puzzle tests. That’s all this headline means, which amounts to nothing.


Yeah that’s just a ridiculous take. I don’t seek expertise from a doctor or a car mechanic or a lawyer because I assume they have higher IQs than I do, I seek their expertise because I know they have knowledge and training that I don’t.


Even if you accept the position of the proponents of IQ testing, which I do not, that IQ is some inherent and immutable characteristic, you would still have to face the fact that the highest IQ person in history would not be a competent surgeon without sufficient training. And some folks with middling IQ can be exceptional in their field due to their dedication to education and training. It’s a useless measure of a nonexistent characteristic and should be consigned to the dustbin of history with phrenology and palmistry. It’s just as valid.


Coca Cola Coke GIF by Coca-Cola Oficial


100% agreed. They literally state in the abstract that this is a “necessary consequence of increasing educational attainment.” In other words, it’s just equivalent to the fact that more people go to college, and IQ is defined relative to the population average being 100, therefore average IQ of college students has gone down. 102 It’s basically just saying “Over 60% of people are now going to college, skewed towards above average IQs, so the average undergrad IQ is also slightly above average.”

As for Flynn, I didn’t dig deep enough to see if they discuss it at all, but based on the numbers I’m guessing they didn’t account for it and are just directly comparing 1940s IQ results to recent IQ results. If we assumed perfect sorting by intelligence, and 5% of people went to college in 1940, we’d have had an average IQ of ~124 at that point. Instead we have 115, which is lower, but not by enough to be Flynn-adjusted to current IQ tests. It is, however, likely lower than 124 because that 5% was selected for more by wealth than just IQ. In poorer societies especially, wealthier individuals will have higher IQs for some pretty obvious reasons.


Weren’t… more people not even allowed in college in the 1950s (legally or societally)?

Isn’t… IQ considered a biased way of looking at “intetlligence” (which is also a subjective measurement)?

If anything, this simply shows that there’s more people in college who don’t fit the idea of intelligence held by the folks who maintain the IQ system. You know… the general public. Doesn’t make them stupid. Just doesn’t make them upper crust white people living in a Puritan/Victorian bubble.

Kind of disappointed BB posted this, honestly.

Except in Lake Wobegone.

(goddamn it, why did Garrison Keillor have to be a creep?)


Exactly: intelligence =/= education

Even if you’re extremely intelligent, it does you little good unless you do the actual work.

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