By their words ye shall know them: Evidence of genetic selection against general intelligence and concurrent environmental enrichment in vocabulary usage since the mid 19th century

Michael A. Woodley of Menie, Heitor B.F. Fernandes, Aurelio José Figueredo, Gerhard Meisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

It has been theorized that declines in general intelligence (g) due to genetic selection stemming from the inverse association between completed fertility and IQ and the Flynn effect co-occur, with the effects of the latter being concentrated on less heritable non-g sources of intelligence variance. Evidence for this comes from the observation that 19th century populations were more intellectually productive, and also exhibited faster simple reaction times than modern ones, suggesting greater information-processing ability and therefore higher g. This co-occurrence model is tested via examination of historical changes in the utilization frequencies of words from the highly g-loaded WORDSUM test across 5.9 million texts spanning the period 1850-2005. Consistent with predictions, words with higher difficulties (d parameters from Item Response Theory) and stronger negative correlations between pass rates and completed fertility declined in use over time whereas less difficult and less strongly selected words, increased in use over time, consistent with a Flynn effect stemming in part from the vocabulary enriching effects of increases in population literacy. These findings persisted when explicitly controlled for word age, changing literacy rates and temporal autocorrelation. These trends constitute compelling evidence for the co-occurrence model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number361
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume6
Issue numberAPR
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Keywords

  • Co-occurrence model
  • Flynn effect
  • Intelligence
  • Vocabulary
  • WORDSUM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'By their words ye shall know them: Evidence of genetic selection against general intelligence and concurrent environmental enrichment in vocabulary usage since the mid 19th century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this