Believe it or not


Our great-grandfathers had more brainpower

A new study led by psychologist Michael Woodley (Umeå University, Sweden) has found that our 19th century ancestors were "substantially cleverer" than we are.

The researchers compared reaction times (reflex speed) as an indicator of our 'fleetness of mind' or general intelligence across the generations since the 1800s.

brain exercising

(Although the alternative indicator IQ is a useful measure of general intelligence today, the researchers could not meaningfully compare it directly across different eras as earlier generations usually had only limited access to education, nutrition, and hygiene, which would have boosted modern results.)

They compared modern reaction times with those measured in the late 19th century by Francis Galton (Charles Darwin's first cousin who founded eugenics ( They found that an average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, but in 2004 it had slowed to 253 milliseconds. For the average woman, too, there was a deterioration over this same period: from 188ms down to 261ms.

The researchers say this slowing in our reflexes can be equated to a loss of 14 IQ points since Victorian times. This "pronounced decline" is three times larger than previous theoretical estimates.

Along with genetic studies showing progressive mutational degradation of our human genome, with about 100 new mutations per generation (see John Sanford's book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome —, here is yet more evidence of our being in "bondage to decay", just as the Bible says (Romans 8:19–22).

Were the Victorians cleverer than us? Research indicates a decline in brainpower and reflex speed thanks to 'REVERSE' natural selection,, 13 May 2013.
Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time, Intelligence 41(6):843–850, 2013.

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