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Our IQ is on the decline. A study suggests Victorians had higher IQ than us

Though mankind evolved to become more intelligent,the inherited part of mental ability may have weakened again since the Victorian era, researchers said.

more lifestyle Updated: Jul 19, 2017 15:11 IST
Press Trust of India, London
IQ,Mental ability,Intelligence
People dressed in Victorian costumes(Shutterstock)

Our mental abilities have undergone a significant decline since the Victorian era, as genes driving intelligence have become less common since the 19th century, scientists say.

Researchers, led by Michael Woodley from the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, used a bank of genomes recovered from the remains of 99 people from central and eastern Europe. The oldest of these died in about 2,000 BC, at the start of the Bronze Age, while the latest was from the seventh century AD.

Comparing these against the DNA of 503 modern Europeans, the researchers found that the mutations linked to higher general cognitive ability (GCA), which enables people to solve problems across a range of different modes of thinking, had become more common as time went by. The results were confirmed in a separate analysis of the genes of 66 more ancient people who had lived across 3,200 years, ‘The Times’ reported.

Mankind evolved to become more intelligent over the past few millennia due to circumstances that have favoured the survival of the sharpest, researchers said. However, the inherited part of mental ability, may have weakened again since the Victorian era, they said.

Researchers had previously argued that the genes driving intelligence may have become less common since the 19th century as advances in medicine and nutrition have allowed people with lower IQs to have more children who survived into adulthood.

As a result, the “millennia-long microevolutionary trend favouring higher GCA” may have gone into reverse over the course of the 20th century. The research, which was released on bioRxiv, a website for early-stage research, is yet to be published in a peer- reviewed journal.

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First Published: Jul 19, 2017 15:08 IST