Are we becoming more and more stupid?

Endocrine disruptors, excessive exposure to the Internet… Would they decrease our IQ? Our 3 experts looked into the matter.

Is the human being more and more stupid over the years?

Unlike Covid, there is no mask to protect yourself from chemical pollution

Barbara Demeneix, biologist and author of Toxic cocktail: how endocrine disruptors poison our brains (ed. Odile Jacob, 2017)


“Yes, several arguments point in the direction of a decrease in intelligence related to chemical pollution, and especially to endocrine disruptors that affect thyroid hormone.

Because the thyroid axis plays an essential role in the development of the human brain. A 2015 study by Tim Korevaar of 4,000 women showed that the children of those who had normal thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy – but a little low compared to others – had, at 8 years of age, a thinner cortex and a lower intelligence quotient (IQ). Several decades ago, another study correlated exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) during pregnancy with the IQ level of unborn children. More recent data show that “cocktails” of substances such as bisphenol F and bisphenol S – an unfortunate substitute for bisphenol A – could have the same type of effect.

We are all exposed to thousands of types of toxic products. They are found in our diet, in non-organic fruits and vegetables, in plastics, in our home, in some cosmetics, etc. Each child is born contaminated: several substances are found not only in the blood of pregnant women but also in the amniotic fluid of the fetus. And, unlike Covid, there is no mask to protect yourself from it.”

There is no decline in the ability to reason strictly speaking

Corentin Gonthier, lecturer in psychology at the University of Rennes

photo of three men jumping on ground near bare trees during daytime

“No, we know that intelligence is not declining to date, in France. This myth actually comes from a single publication: a 2015 study by Edward Dutton and Richard Lynn, which involved only 79 people. It is therefore a little bold to conclude from this that the intelligence of the French is falling.

Especially since this group of 79 people is not very representative. For example, it only included the 30-34 and 55-63 age groups. Not to mention that the only categories of issues on which changes have been observed are those of general culture and arithmetic. The logic tests proved to be perfectly consistent. This means that, even in this sample, there is no decline in the ability to reason strictly speaking. Another study has since confirmed this lack of decline in intelligence in France.

Global data synthesis of 4 million participants showed a slowdown in progress in intelligence. But this is relatively expected. The increases in intelligence measured in the past were largely related to the development of education and schooling, but also to health factors such as nutrition. These effects continue to play a role in developing countries. In contrast, in developed countries, most of these factors are interrupted.”

Screens don’t make us so stupid

Sophie Pène, Professor of Information Sciences at the University of Paris Descartes

If we consider that to be intelligent is to share fiction and sociability, then no, screens do not make us so stupid. The Internet and technology provide enormous access to knowledge, whether it is driven information resulting from precise research or serendipity discoveries (due to chance, editor’s note) and walks in the stories of others.

Being alone in front of his screen makes us a little stupid, some will object. However, we see that this is not entirely true. Today, video games allow you to chat with other players. Gaming interfaces even reproduce the accidents and hazards specific to “IRL” sociability.

During the health crisis, we see above all that technologies have been real supports for the citizen inventiveness of solidarity. Visors and valves for respirators were produced in record time, a formidable epidemiological information system was set up, and open science worked wonders. However, young people under the age of 25 have been at the origin of many of these initiatives. Around the meeting of their knowledge, they have therefore proved that with sociability, a lot of work and skills, we can increase the average intelligence of humanity.”

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