Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Were We Thinking?

How are humans different from other animals?

Our brains are big, at least in relation to our bodies, right?

And we use those brains to make tools, right?

But when was the last time you made a tool?

You hear a lot about how our present environment is not what our bodies evolved for. High-fat, high-sugar food is way too plentiful for us, whose bodies evolved to be driven to hunt and gather when food was scarce. Also, our environment does not force us to move – I read recently that the average amount of time Americans spent in vigorous physical activity is less than 2 minutes per day – for obese adult women, it is mere secondswhen it should be, at a bare minimum, 30 minutes per day. Our bodies are meant to move; it’s been speculated we evolved to be long-distance runners, with our ancestors routinely covering 20+ miles at a time, literally running other animals to death.

I think the same is true of our brains: we live now in vastly different environments than the ones our brains evolved for. However, the present-day environment might be pushing our brains to perform better, not worse.

There’s the Flynn Effect. Dr. Flynn discovered that IQs have increased dramatically over the last 100 years. Basically, IQ tests are always being normed; that is, a group of people will take the test and the average of that group will be declared to be 100 or average IQ. But Flynn compared test results from the past and present. A person who scored a 100 in the past would, today, be considered borderline retarded (70), while a person who scored 100 today would have scored 130 (cusp of genius) back in the day.
Makes you want to go back in time and be the smart one, right?

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