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IQs Are Higher Because We’re Better at Taking Tests

If the trajectory of IQ tests is to be believed, then intelligence is increasing across the world.

But the real story is more complicated, as researchers at King’s College in London found in a study to be published in the journal Intelligence that examined the steady rise in IQ scores worldwide. They looked at 734 studies and surveys on IQ tests in 48 countries, from 1950 to 2014.

In 1950, people were getting less than half of the answers correct in non-verbal intelligence tests, on average. By 2014, that average had risen to near 70%. But the overarching increase in IQ is skewed by a more rapid increase in IQ scores in developing countries. The data show that in the countries identified as developed—including the US, Europe, South Korea, Japan—scores on the test started higher, with people on average answering just under 60% of answers correctly. Developing countries started lower at under 50% correct on average, but have increased more rapidly.

 The percent of correct scores on IQ tests is increasing over time.(Peera Wongupparaj, A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of Raven's Progressive Matrices)

The greater gains in developing countries reflect increasing access to education, healthcare, and internet ...

Study: Three to Five Cups of Coffee a Day is Good For the Arteries

More good news for coffee drinkers. Scientists in Korea have found (pdf) that drinking between one and five cups of coffee every day is good for the arteries. It’s the latest piece in a growing body of research suggesting that coffee may have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, the researchers said.

report last week from the US dietary guidelines advisory committee, which makes recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies, pointed out the health benefits of drinking between three and five cups of coffee a day. These included lower risks of type 2 diabetes and of cardiovascular disease.

The Korean research, published in Heart, part of the British Medical Journal, studied the presence of calcium in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Calcium deposits are an early indicator of a condition called coronary atherosclerosis, in which the arteries become clogged by fatty substances. These can cause them to harden and narrow, heightening the risk of blood clots that are one cause of heart attack and stroke.

In some 25,000 people studied at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in Seoul, calcium ratios were found to be lowest in those who drank between three ...

What Animals Teach Us About Measuring Intelligence

My dog Maebe gets very excited whenever my roommate comes home. Due to her heightened sense of smell, she starts her happy dance 30 seconds before the door actually opens, giving me time to sneak the bag of chips that he bought back into the cupboard. Does such olfactory aptitude mean she’s a genius, on par with master sommeliers?  

In the midst of her happy dance, she sometimes chases her tail. When she’s feeling especially nifty, she’ll catch and proceed to chew on it like it’s a squeak-toy. Does her lack of awareness with respect to self-mutilation mean she’s stupid?

Intelligence is notoriously difficult to measure. For humans, common measures are childhood IQ and SAT scores, metrics that are under constant attack. But this debacle becomes even more apparent when other species are involved. The study of animal intelligence, or cognition, is such a nascent field that most of what has been hypothesized has yet to be replicated in a lab. The biggest challenges to the field’s development are that it relies too heavily on anecdotes, that controlled experiments with large-enough sample sizes are difficult to design, that many consider it irrelevant, and that ...

Bad Weather: Better for Work, Terrible for Everything Else

Talking about the weather used to be drudgery saved for only the most boring acquaintances. But in the age of temperature selfies and record snow, winter'spopularity on the Internet seems to thrive in spite of the season's toll on our minds (and bodies).

Winter and the snowstorms that come with it have traditionally been associated with a drop in economic output, with some estimates in the billions annually for the U.S. alone. But productivity studies hum a different tune for office workers: When the weather's bad outside, workers are more productive at their jobs inside.

Researchers Jooa Julia Lee, Francesca Gino, and Bradley Staats looked at how weather affects worker productivity at a Japanese bank, online, and in the lab. They hypothesized that good weather is distracting because "attractive outdoor options is a form of task-unrelated thinking that serves as a cognitive distraction that shifts workers’ attention away from the task at hand." In other words, when a worker is thinking about all the things they could be doing on a nice summer day instead of being stuck at the office, they're not focused on work.

In the experiment at the Japanese bank, the ...

Stressed? It’s Not How Much You Do, It’s How You Do It

Yes, there are just too many things that have to be done today. But ask yourself, do they all have to be done right now?

The answer is probably “no.” So just take a deep breath, or turn your stress into excitement—those will help restore a better sense of time, according to a new study to be published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

The team of researchers from Duke, Stanford, and Erasmus University Rotterdam examined “goal conflict,” which is the idea that in many cases a person’s goals step on each other—missing dinner with the family to stay in the office, for example, can make a person feel as if they’re failing at being a good parent in favor of finishing work. The researchers figured that this has a circular effect—the more conflicted a person feels, the more stressed she becomes, and the less time she thinks she has.

“Perceiving more goal conflict—both related and unrelated to demands on time—leads to heightened stress and anxiety, which subsequently makes people feel more time constrained,” the authors wrote.

So the researchers tested two stress management techniques—”slow breathing” and “anxiety reappraisal”—to restore a ...