I tend to share Steve Sailer’s doubts about Michael Woodley et al’s paper on how reaction times are slower now than when Galton first measured them:
“It was an era of glorious scientific discovery. And the reason for the Victorians unprecedented success is simple – they were ‘substantially cleverer’ than us. Researchers compared reaction times – a reliable indicator of general
intelligence – since the late 1800s to the present day and found our
fleetness of mind is diminishing. They claim our slowing reflexes suggest we are less smart than our
ancestors, with a loss of 1.23 IQ points per decade or 14 IQ points
since Victorian times. While an average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, this has slowed to 253ms in 2004. They found the same case with women, whose speed deteriorated from 188 to 261ms in the same period.”
Back in the 1990s, I read up on Arthur Jensen’s research on his reaction
time experiments, and … I don’t know. It seemed very, very
complicated, even more complicated than reading Jensen on IQ.
How about me? I’m a reasonably intelligent person. Do I have good reaction times? In general, I’d say no.
I’m more than a bit dubious about this correlation between reaction time and intelligence myself. While on the one hand, I am highly intelligent and have excellent reaction times – I’m a former NCAA D1 100m sprinter and can still outsprint most men 15 years younger – on the other, I remember the sprinters against whom I ran. Let’s just say many of them were not likely to be confused with rocket scientists.
Then again, I have no problem believing that the Victorian English were considerably brighter, on average, than the modern American. A simple comparison of popular novels, then and now, should suffice to prove that.