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Data from: What caused over a century of decline in general intelligence? Testing predictions from the genetic selection and neurotoxin hypotheses

Citation

Woodley of Menie, Michael A. et al. (2019), Data from: What caused over a century of decline in general intelligence? Testing predictions from the genetic selection and neurotoxin hypotheses, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.nb301

Abstract

Several converging lines of evidence indicate that general intelligence (g) has declined in Western populations. The causes of these declines are debated. Here, two hypotheses are tested: (1) selection acting against genetic variants that promote g causes the decline and (2) the presence of neurotoxic pollution in the environment causes the decline. A linear mixed model was devised to test (1) and (2), in which the secular decline in a “heritable g” (g.h) chronometric factor (comprised of convergent indicators of simple reaction time, working memory, utilization frequencies of high difficulty and also social-intelligence-indicating vocabulary items and per capita macro-innovation rates) was predicted using a neurotoxin chronometric factor (comprised of convergent secular trends among measures of lead, mercury and dioxin + furan pollution, in addition to alcohol consumption) and a polygenic score chronometric factor (comprised of polygenic score means for genetic variants predictive of g, sourced from US and Icelandic age-stratified cohorts). Bivariate correlations revealed that (other than time) only the polygenic score factor was significantly associated with declining g.h (r = .393, p < .05 vs. .033, ns for the neurotoxin factor). Using a hierarchical linear mixed model approach incorporating 25 year lags between the predictors and g.h, time period, operationalized categorically as fifths of a century, accounted for the majority of the variance in the decline in g.h (partial η^2 = .584, p < .05). Net of time period and neurotoxins, changing levels of polygenic scores also significantly predicted variance in the decline in g.h (partial η^2 = .253, p < .05); however, changing levels of neurotoxins did not significantly predict variance in g.h net of time (partial η^2 = .027 ns). Within-period analysis indicates that the independent significant positive effect of the polygenic score factor on g.h was restricted to the third fifth of a century period (β = .202, p < .05).

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Location

UK
Europe
US
Iceland