Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

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Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby podbaydoor » Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:28 pm UTC

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/02/132591244 ... ing-dumber?

NPR wrote:January 2, 2011
When it comes to brain size, bigger doesn't always mean better. As humans continue to evolve, scientists say our brains are actually getting smaller.

The downsizing of human brains is an evolutionary fact that took science writer Kathleen McAuliffe by surprise.

"I said, 'What? I thought it was getting bigger!'" she tells NPR's Jacki Lyden. That was the story up to 20,000 years ago, she learned. Then, the brains of our ancestors reversed course and started getting smaller — and they've been shrinking ever since.

Cro-Magnon man, who lived in Europe 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, had the biggest brains of any human species. In comparison, today's human brain is about 10 percent smaller. It's a chunk of brain matter "roughly equivalent to a tennis ball in size," McAuliffe says.

The experts aren't sure about the implications of this evolutionary trend. Some think it might be a dumbing-down process. One cognitive scientist, David Geary, argues that as human society grows increasingly complex, individuals don't need to be as intelligent in order to survive and reproduce.

But not all researchers are so pessimistic. Brian Hare, an anthropologist at the Duke University Institute for Brain Sciences, thinks the decrease in brain size is actually an evolutionary advantage.

The Domesticated Brain

"A smaller brain is the signature of selection against aggression," Hare tells Lyden. "Another way to say that is an increase in tolerance."

Hare says when a population selects against aggression, they can be considered to be domesticated. And for a variety of domesticated animals like apes, dogs or turkeys, you can see certain physical characteristics emerge. Among these traits are a lighter and more slender skeleton, a flattened forehead — and decreased brain size.

Hare's studies focus on chimpanzees and bonobos. In evolutionary terms, they are much like humans, but are physically quite different from one another. Bonobos have smaller brains than chimpanzees — and are also much less aggressive.

While both have the cognitive ability to solve a given puzzle, Hare says, chimpanzees are much less likely to accomplish it if it involves teamwork. Not so with bonobos.

"If the food is quite sparse and it's not easy to share, [bonobos] can solve the problem," Hare says. "Chimpanzees, in that same context — where there's not much food and it's not easy to share — they just refuse to work together. They can't solve the problem, even though they know how."

Hare does admit that the shrinking human brain could signal an evolutionary dumbing-down, but more important is what the phenomenon tells us about ourselves. Comparing our evolution to that of other animals enriches our understanding of the human condition.

"The nice thing about studying animals and human nature," Hare says, "is that it helps us design or think of some strategies that deal with our darker sides."

Unfortunately, the NPR article doesn't include links to their sources or any journals so I'm not sure how to dig deeper on this story. But, thoughts?
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:55 pm UTC

I'm not positive, but isn't the correlation to relative brain size and intelligence sort of lose, and the various relationships between brain structures is more important?

I seem to recall that humans have the highest 'social reasoning' structure : cerebrum of any organism, and hence our propensity to complex social interactions. Compared, to, say, a bird, which has a very high 'visual spacial awareness' : cerebellum, and thus, a propensity towards being able to rapidly navigate 3-dimensions during flight.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dauric » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:01 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:... thoughts?


Nope, my brain is too small.

I recall something a while back that it's not raw 'size' but rather surface area that denotes the brain's functionality, the more 'wrinkly' the brain the more functionality it has. At least that was the theory at the time, anyone have any solid info on that aspect?

...

OTOH, smaller organic brain leaves more room for cyborg-computer backup brain implants....
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dark567 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:10 pm UTC

The Human brain is about 3 times as large with respect to body size as any other mammal. Generally it seems across Mammalia, that brain size has basically increased through out evolutionary history.

The aggressive thing seems to make sense, predators almost universally have larger brains than other mammals.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Lazar » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:11 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:Cro-Magnon man, who lived in Europe 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, had the biggest brains of any human species. In comparison, today's human brain is about 10 percent smaller. It's a chunk of brain matter "roughly equivalent to a tennis ball in size," McAuliffe says.

I don't have any sources at hand, but I've always heard that the Neanderthals had the largest brains (or at least, the largest cranial capacity) of any human species.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dark567 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:15 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:
podbaydoor wrote:Cro-Magnon man, who lived in Europe 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, had the biggest brains of any human species. In comparison, today's human brain is about 10 percent smaller. It's a chunk of brain matter "roughly equivalent to a tennis ball in size," McAuliffe says.

I don't have any sources at hand, but I've always heard that the Neanderthals had the largest brains (or at least, the largest cranial capacity) of any human species.

True, but if I remember correctly, they also had larger bodies. Usually the important factor considered isn't size, but brain size to body size ratio.

EDIT: It is also notable that Neanderthals had a much larger variance of brain size. On the low extremes they had smaller brains than humans, and on the other extreme they had larger brains than humans(and larger brains on average). I wonder if that would be evolutionarily disadvantageous for some reason?
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Tirian » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:16 pm UTC

I think you also have to have an agreement about what "intelligence" means. I suppose they have lots of knowledge that I don't have, but that goes both ways. I suppose I can fathom that it took more thought to devise spoken and written language than it does to learn it, but I have a hard time believing that they'd solve a problem more efficiently by instinct than I would with education.

My hunch is that a more compact brain would be advantageous for the same reason that smaller computer processors are better than the large ones of the past. They require less energy, processing time is improved as the distances the signals need to travel decrease, and a smaller brain can be protected with a lighter skull.

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:18 pm UTC

Brains aren't microprocessors; while various structures evolving is one thing, I don't think our neurons are more effective than say, a mouses. So sure, a cat may have a larger cerebellum than we do, and is more agile partially as a result, but the shrinking of our cerebellum relative to a cats isn't because ours became more streamlined.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Telchar » Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:40 pm UTC

It could also be seen as evidence of an increase in neruoplasticity over the years. More efficient pathways+more specialized lifestyle=less space needed.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Landsknecht » Mon Jan 03, 2011 6:18 pm UTC

Hare says when a population selects against aggression, they can be considered to be domesticated. And for a variety of domesticated animals like apes, dogs or turkeys, you can see certain physical characteristics emerge. Among these traits are a lighter and more slender skeleton, a flattened forehead — and decreased brain size.

If an animal's mass gets smaller, you expect some kind of corresponding decrease in brain size, no? I mean, as part of the general downsizing. That wouldn't necessarily impact the higher-up smarts so much, what with it being a more mid-level management type of cull.

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby HungryHobo » Mon Jan 03, 2011 10:18 pm UTC

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

what forces of selection currently favor the big brained apes over the small brained ones?
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Brooklynxman » Mon Jan 03, 2011 10:58 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:
podbaydoor wrote:... thoughts?


Nope, my brain is too small.


Win.

So, does this mean the stereotypical giant brained supervillian is accurate? That if someone had a brain that size, they would be less tolerant of other people and more prone to super villain aggressiveness?
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dauric » Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:18 pm UTC

I'd think the question is more of "What is the brain composed of?" A "Cave Man" for lack of a better broad-brush term, would have had more sound whacks to the head just as a matter of living in the wild, while civilized people take progressively stronger measures to protect our craniums as technology progresses. The important question is does the ability of Modern Homo Sapiens to encase his own skull in additional padding and lightweight armor (in everything from Bicycling to Football and Warfare) mean that we've lost the need for a lot of extraneous padding between the neurons, and so despite the overall reduction in size there may be an increase in actual neuron-count?

Of course I'm not a brain surgeon so I don't have any good data as to brain cellular composition, much less comparative composition over time, so perhaps someone else has some relevant data on the subject?
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:42 am UTC

Women have smaller brain sizes than men, yet have comparable* IQs.

I have a relatively small head, yet am capable of advanced mathematics and science.

My reflexes are pretty much crap though.




*Women have less variance, so while there are fewer female geniuses there are also fewer female idiots. On average, female IQ is often lower than male IQ by 1-2 points, but this can be explained more easily by factors other than "men >> women". Stupid men die relatively young, skewing the statistics. Not to mention the population taking the IQ tests is not necessarily going to be the same as the average population.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Qaanol » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:45 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:The Human brain is about 3 times as large with respect to body size as any other mammal. Generally it seems across Mammalia, that brain size has basically increased through out evolutionary history.

The aggressive thing seems to make sense, predators almost universally have larger brains than other mammals.

Do you mean by volume or by mass? Because I can’t find any sources for the former, and for the latter Wikipedia says, “Shrews hold nearly 10% of their mass in their brain, which is the highest brain to body mass ratio of all animals (including humans).[7]”
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dark567 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:50 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:
Dark567 wrote:The Human brain is about 3 times as large with respect to body size as any other mammal. Generally it seems across Mammalia, that brain size has basically increased through out evolutionary history.

The aggressive thing seems to make sense, predators almost universally have larger brains than other mammals.

Do you mean by volume or by mass? Because I can’t find any sources for the former, and for the latter Wikipedia says, “Shrews hold nearly 10% of their mass in their brain, which is the highest brain to body mass ratio of all animals (including humans).[7]”
I was looking at mass. The reference is here(p.80): http://books.google.com/books?id=-VKEjAbpggcC&pg=PA80#v=onepage&q&f=false

...but it looks like its wrong, and shrews in fact have a larger brain to body mass ratio.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Levi » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:31 am UTC

We're just getting more efficient, is all.

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby dedwrekka » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:23 am UTC

Wasn't Phrenology, and cranimetry pretty much proven to be unable to predict mental capacity around the time we gave up ridiculous ideas about the humors being misaligned?

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby GhostWolfe » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:25 am UTC

podbaydoor wrote:http://www.npr.org/2011/01/02/132591244/our-brains-are-shrinking-are-we-getting-dumber?
NPR wrote:One cognitive scientist, David Geary, argues that as human society grows increasingly complex, individuals don't need to be as intelligent in order to survive and reproduce.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby HungryHobo » Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:16 am UTC

people are talking about things which we "don't need any more" but in many of those cases what selective pressure is actually at work?
Is there anything killing off stupid people more other than fairly minor things like imitating jackass, night swimming and the game of fire-ball?
Is there anything causing people with smaller brains to reproduce more or people with larger ones to reproduce less?
joking aside I would have thought that intelligence is still a reasonably useful trait given that it effects social skills.
Intelligence and brain size are of course also only somewhat related as are fairly abstract and some would argue slightly useless metrics like IQ and actual ability to apply said intelligence.

CorruptUser: I'd be interested in any reference on the difference in variance between males and females, it sounds plausible but I've never seen any research on the matter.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Plasma Man » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:45 am UTC

NPR wrote:"A smaller brain is the signature of selection against aggression," Hare tells Lyden. "Another way to say that is an increase in tolerance."

Hare says when a population selects against aggression, they can be considered to be domesticated. And for a variety of domesticated animals like apes, dogs or turkeys, you can see certain physical characteristics emerge. Among these traits are a lighter and more slender skeleton, a flattened forehead — and decreased brain size.
This makes a lot of sense to me. The main competition for each individual human is other humans, and the ability to cooperate and deal with situations without resorting to aggression has become more of an advantage as social conventions have changed. If this happens in other animals, it will most probably happen with us, except that we're domesticating ourselves, rather than another species.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby HungryHobo » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:15 pm UTC

Plasma Man wrote:This makes a lot of sense to me. The main competition for each individual human is other humans, and the ability to cooperate and deal with situations without resorting to aggression has become more of an advantage as social conventions have changed. If this happens in other animals, it will most probably happen with us, except that we're domesticating ourselves, rather than another species.


which would only be true if people with a predisposition towards violence are reliably culled from the population.
the death penalty is rare enough that it's not going to make that big a difference and even those with merely long term prison sentences still get to breed, conjugal visits and all.
And on the flip side soldiers get laid a lot and women often still end up bearing the children of men who rape them at least in a lot of countries.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:56 pm UTC

So... we can measure intelligence directly. Why not answer the question that way, then see if brain sizes are related to the intelligence decline? Because intelligence happens rising, shrinking skull sizes or no.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 04, 2011 3:49 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Because intelligence happens rising, shrinking skull sizes or no.

Really? Based on nothing but opinion, I find that hard to believe; I wager the average 'intelligence' for whatever metric you want to use for the times, is exactly the same as it was up to, say, 10,000 years ago.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dark567 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 3:52 pm UTC

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:06 pm UTC

That's not very compelling, given the loose definition of IQ. And seriously, you think the average IQ of the world was 43, i.e., everyone in the middle ages and previous was effectively a high functioning Downs Syndrome sufferer? My ability to describe microscopy techniques is going to beat out a Roman Centurians, but chances are he may know a lot more about the inner structures of military and combat than I do.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I doubt very much that 'intelligence' of humans has changed significantly in the last, say, 4-10,000 years.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dauric » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:21 pm UTC

Also how many Roman Centurions, or Egyptian pyramid builders took the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Form test (developed in the 1930s, the first standard form published in 1955)?

I suppose in theory one might compare writings from ancient Greece to the concepts in the WAIS, but the problem being that in Classical Greece they were debating and developing the ideas (such as Euclidean Geometry) that the WAIS is founded on. Without accounting for the different underling knowledge bases across time that graph doesn't really measure any kind of side-by-side rationalizing ability. Now if you could selectively erase the mind of a modern mathematician to have a Classical Greek understanding of mathematics and geometry then line them up side by side with the WAIS you could make a proper distinction about brain size and functional cognitive ability.

... though our tiny brains haven't figured out the technology for that kind of mind control and time travel.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

Have you ever been to an open market, where bartering is acceptable? Half the peddlers are hawking wares that they themselves grew (i.e., as farmers, probably don't have time to take classes in higher philosophy or art or whathaveyou), but can shrewdly manipulate sums in their head faster than you can, can adroitly assess how much you're willing to spend and quickly calculate how hard to push you for a sale...

Yeah. That's a form of intelligence. So is just about every form of artistry that has graced our histories; basket weavers or potters or masons or carpenters. Step down for a second from this notion that intelligence is how many books you've read or which philosophers babbling you prescribe to, and remember that the majority of the human condition and interaction involves higher brain function that also comes in varying degrees of aptitude.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby quantropy » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:36 pm UTC

One hypothesis as to why we evolved large brains is that they act as an analogue computer in calculating the trajectory of thrown objects, and the bigger the brain, the more accurate the calculation. Now that we can use differential equations we no longer need such large brains. :roll:

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Hitaro0 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:52 pm UTC

I had the impression that most of the "meat" of the brain had nothing to do with intelligence or vital motor functions ect. but rather insulation/padding to protect such important stuff? Maybe I'm just completely off-base and should refrain from commenting on something I don't know much of.
But I still find these "brain size correlates to intelligence" jokes pretty funny~

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dauric » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:58 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Have you ever been to an open market, where bartering is acceptable? Half the peddlers are hawking wares that they themselves grew (i.e., as farmers, probably don't have time to take classes in higher philosophy or art or whathaveyou), but can shrewdly manipulate sums in their head faster than you can, can adroitly assess how much you're willing to spend and quickly calculate how hard to push you for a sale...

Yeah. That's a form of intelligence. So is just about every form of artistry that has graced our histories; basket weavers or potters or masons or carpenters. Step down for a second from this notion that intelligence is how many books you've read or which philosophers babbling you prescribe to, and remember that the majority of the human condition and interaction involves higher brain function that also comes in varying degrees of aptitude.


I'm not sure if this was directed at my comment, but I'm actually agreeing with you.

I being up the WAIS test since the graph in question references the Intelligence Quotient, which the WAIS is the typical form to determine that score (there are others, but the WAIS, or rather WAIS Form IV to be accurate is the most common (assuming I got my research right)).

I focus on the philosopher/mathematicians (namely Euclid because he codified much of our understanding of basic geometry) because that's really the only place where one could get any data to support a historical-IQ score (since they were actively studying the foundations of the visual problems in the WAIS, the test that we typically associate with an IQ score). To my knowledge we have few if any writings from Classical period farmers to even begin to make any kind of scientific comparison to any sort of modern standardized test population. Art, being largely subjective, lacks any way to generate actual numbers to be able to come up with a 'Score', which one would need to assemble a sensible graph of IQ values over time.

If anything Izawwlgood's point has been used to challenge the veracity of the entire IQ scoring methodology as a means of testing cogitative ability, being that some of the tests have tended to favor tests of knowledge, or had certain cultural biases rather than actually testing cogitative problem-solving ability. My comment is that there's not just a cultural/knowledge bias, but also a temporal bias in those tests as later generations use the tools created by earlier generations to solve the problems.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Duban » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:28 pm UTC

Ok, this thread seems to think that a decreasing brain size implies a universal decrease in intelligence or a universal increase in efficiency. It could just be a sign of specialization. An ancient person would need to know how to hunt and track food, how to forage for berries/etc, how to make every tool the group needs, when to migrate and move with the food, etc. That person would need to know everything the tribe knew to survive.

These days society tends to put people into very specialized roles. People today need to be skilled at only 1 or 2 things to survive within the society. My specialization would be math, computers, and logic. Another person could be good with mechanics and fixing cars. Another person could be good at engineering. Another person communications. etc. The person good at computers can then benefit from the person who is good at fixing things when his car breaks down, but when the mechanic needs a computersized inventory system I'm there to supply him. I don't need to grow my own food so a farmer supplies me while I work with their computers should they need it.

Rather than being directly smarter or dumber our minds could easily just be adapting to more specialized roles while shedding the unnecessary weight dedicated to doing tasks that are outside our specialization.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:48 pm UTC

@Duaric: Yeah, I wasn't posting my remark to disagree with you, as much as expand on why my sentiment agreed with your position.

Duban wrote:Rather than being directly smarter or dumber our minds could easily just be adapting to more specialized roles while shedding the unnecessary weight dedicated to doing tasks that are outside our specialization.

I think you're overestimating the degree of specialization you possess compared to someone in the past, and underestimating the degree of specialization they possessed. I.e., you know how to drive a car, use a telephone, order at a restaurant, find what you are looking for in a supermarket, and interact with a computer. These are all skills of the times. You probably don't know how to change a horse shoe, tighten a bedspread, sharpen a knife, dress down captured prey, or navigate a market square.

As soon as people settled into towns, they started specializing, but the accouterments of living in a town meant navigating the social and technological parlance of the times. We aren't 'smarter' because we can use computers, and a basketweaver or potter of ancient Egypt was still highly specialized.

Which isn't to say that there aren't people today that are really specialized, or that there weren't people back then who were simply generic laborers. I just don't think it's particularly more or less unique to the times.

EDIT: I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think humans, as individual biological organisms have really changed much in terms of our intelligence, but that the collective human intelligence/knowledge has increased. Which is a very, very interesting thing.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby broken_escalator » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:50 pm UTC

Our brains are just trying to pre-empt the iBrain that will be 40% smaller and have 200% extended battery life. Sadly they will also come with drm and not support flash. The iBrain 2.0 will be twice as large and do the exact same thing though!

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Jave D » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:59 pm UTC

Hmm. Were Cro-Magnons or Neanderthals more intelligent than us?

Sure, they didn't have Beethoven, but they also didn't have Glenn Beck. This was meant as a rhetorical question, but now I'm not sure.

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dauric » Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:07 pm UTC

Duban wrote:Ok, this thread seems to think that a decreasing brain size implies a universal decrease in intelligence or a universal increase in efficiency.


Reading the thread I don't see that as a serious argument. There's jokes about smaller brains and reduced capacity, but that's not the serious part of the debate. I think that the consensus (so far and IMO) is that primitive species may have non-cognitive structures (fat cells that fill the spaces between the neurons, holding them in place and protecting against impact for example, as brought up by myself and Hitaro0) that are diminished in more 'civilizationally developed' (for a better turn of phrase than 'domesticated') species that don't suffer as frequent head-trauma due to social protections and/or technology.

If anything the argument has been between increased or identical brain power over the passage of time, and that size is an irrelevant measure of brain quality.

broken_escalator wrote:Our brains are just trying to pre-empt the iBrain that will be 40% smaller and have 200% extended battery life. Sadly they will also come with drm and not support flash. The iBrain 2.0 will be twice as large and do the exact same thing though!


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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby broken_escalator » Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:09 pm UTC

I always viewed Glenn Beck as more of a professional troll than a raging loon.

But maybe I'm mistaking his true self for a cleverly crafted image?

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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:24 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Really? Based on nothing but opinion, I find that hard to believe; I wager the average 'intelligence' for whatever metric you want to use for the times, is exactly the same as it was up to, say, 10,000 years ago.
The Flynn effect suggests that intelligence appears to be increasing recently, and it seems unlikely that the sexual selection that lead to humans being clever in the first place would stop working or reverse significantly over the last 500 generations.

Jave D wrote:Hmm. Were Cro-Magnons or Neanderthals more intelligent than us?

Sure, they didn't have Beethoven, but they also didn't have Glenn Beck. This was meant as a rhetorical question, but now I'm not sure.
Neanderthals, though they had larger brains, didn't figure out trade. That's one of the reasons why the Cro-Magnons came out on top.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:49 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:The Flynn effect suggests that intelligence appears to be increasing recently, and it seems unlikely that the sexual selection that lead to humans being clever in the first place would stop working or reverse significantly over the last 500 generations.

Can you explain what you mean a bit more? The conditions that led to humans becoming social creatures who use tools didn't vanish.

Also, the Flynn effect is in reference to IQ tests, so... who cares? Over time people get better at taking IQ tests because more people take them and more people figure out how to improve IQ test scores. It does nothing to test for every sort of aptitude beyond your ability to take an IQ test.
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Re: Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber?

Postby Dark567 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:18 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote: It does nothing to test for every sort of aptitude beyond your ability to take an IQ test.
Based on its correlation with job performance/health/income, it certainly seems like that isn't really the case.

Moreover every type of evaluation doesn't just evaluate the subject matter, but the aptitude in the medium of evaluation. When you write a history paper, you aren't just being evaluated on your knowledge and comprehension of history, you are also being evaluated on your aptitude to write. Still if you have the aptitude to write, but don't know anything about history your probably gonna do badly. IQ tests are much the same, you aren't just being evaluated on your intelligence, but your aptitude at taking a tests, that being said, if your really unintelligent your not going to do well. Along with that, it seems standardized testing is one of the least intrusive evaluations of the subject matter. If you were a good writer, but didn't know history, it wouldn't outside the realm of possibility to write well enough to make up for your history deficiency. If your a good test taker, but didn't know history, a multiple choice test is probably still going to destroy you.
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