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高智商为何不能让我们变聪明?

Our IQs have never been higher – but it hasn’t made us smart
高智商为何不能让我们变聪明?

James Flynn is worried about leaving the world to millennials. As a professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, he regularly meets bright students with enormous potential, only to find that many of them aren’t engaging with the complex past of the world around them.

对于把世界留给千禧一代这个想法,詹姆斯·弗林(James Flynn)充满忧虑。身为新西兰奥塔哥大学(University of Otago)的教授,他经常结识潜力巨大、才华横溢的学生,而却不无遗憾地发现:其中大多数人对于周遭世界的复杂历史毫无兴趣。

“They have all these modern skills and yet they come out of university no different than the medieval peasant who is anchored in his own little world,” he tells me mid-way through our conversation. “Well, actually they are anchored in a much bigger world – the world of the present – but with no historical dimension.” The result, he thinks, is that we have overly simplistic views of current issues, leaving us open to manipulation by politicians and the media.

谈话过半,他向我娓娓道来:“尽管对于各种现代化的技能,他们都无一不知、无一不晓;但置身大学校园之外的世界,他们的认知竟和中世纪的农民一样局限,不约而同地固步自封在自己小世界当中。好吧,其实他们固守的周边世界比农民的一亩三分地要大得多;那里满眼都是当下的泡沫,没有历史纵深感可言。”在他看来,这导致年轻人看待当前议题时过于简单幼稚,容易成为被政客和媒体操控的傀儡。
 

We are talking in the living room of his son Victor, who is a mathematician at the University of Oxford, during a flying visit from his home in New Zealand. Open on the sofa is his latest reading, Alice Munro’s Runaway, the result of a recent foray into literary criticism – again, with the hope that he can encourage younger people to look beyond their smartphone screens. “I have a second book out this year that says to young people ‘for god’s sake, you are educated, why don’t you read!’” he tells me. When he was young, he says, “girls wouldn’t date you if you hadn’t read the recent novels”.

时值弗林从新西兰家中赴欧作短暂访问期间,我们在弗林之子、任职于牛津大学的数学家维克多(Victor)家的客厅中侃侃而谈。客厅的沙发上摊开放着弗林最近刚读的一本著作:艾丽斯·芒罗(Alice Munro)的《逃离》(Runaway)。由此可见,他近期初涉文学评论领域,而此举同样旨在鼓励更年轻的一代不要把眼光局限在手机屏幕上。他对我说:“在我今年出版的另一部著作中,我向年轻人们呼吁到:‘看在上帝的份上,你们都是接受过教育的人,为什么不读书呢!’”他回忆说,在自己的青年时代,“女孩不会和没读过新出版小说的男生出去约会。”

I am here to discuss his latest book, Does Your Family Make You Smarter? It is a wide ranging conversation on the ways that human thinking has changed over time, including a mysterious rise in IQ – the “Flynn Effect” for which he is now best known – and the various competing influences that shape our intellect over our lifetime.

我本次与弗林教授会面,是想要对他的最新力作《你的家庭是否让你变得更加聪明了呢?》(Does Your Family Make You Smarter?)展开探讨。我们围绕人类思维方式如何随着时间推移而做出转变这一主题谈天说地,既分析了“弗林效应”(“Flynn Effect”,指人类智商神秘增长的现象,迄今弗林最为人所熟知的研究发现),又探讨了在人的一生中对其智力产生影响的各种竞争性因素。

At 82, Flynn is now a towering figure in intelligence research, but it was only meant to be a short distraction, he says. “I’m a moral philosopher who dabbles in psychology,” he says. “And by dabbling I mean it’s taken over half my time for the past 30 years.” As part of this philosophical research on the nature of objectivity, he came across dubious claims that certain races are intellectually inferior. Examining the evidence, he saw that the average scores for everyone – black and white alike – had been rising consistently by around three points a decade. Yet few people had noted on the fact.

如今,年届82岁高龄的弗林是智力研究学界的一位巨擘。然而,他却说这注定只是一个不会长期坚持的分心之事。“我是一个道德哲学家,碰巧略会一点心理学,”他如是说。“而藉由‘略会一二’,我想表达的是在过往的30年中,自己有一半的时间都献给了心理学。”在探索客观求实的哲学问题时,他一再碰到一些相当可疑的论断,它们认为某些种族在智力水平上低人一等。于是,他对这种论断的科学依据进行检视,随即发现平均来看,所有人——无论白人,还是黑人——的智商测试分数都在以每十年增加三分的速度持续增长。可是,这一事实几乎无人提及。

“I thought, why aren’t psychologists dancing in the street over this? What the hell is going on?” These were no small, incremental, improvements – between 1934 and 1964, the Dutch had gained 20 points – yet it had been ignored by the very people administering the tests. “It was sitting there right in front of their noses and they didn’t see it.”

“我就想,心理学家是干什么去了,他们为什么不羞耻得当街起舞呢?这到底是怎么回事?”这可不是什么微不足道的、渐进的增长(从1934年到1964年间,荷兰人的智商测试分数增加了20分),可它却恰恰被负责执行测试的人抹煞忽视掉了。“这么明显的现象,就躺在他们眼皮子底下,而他们竟视而不见。”

Psychologists had long known that our genes play a role in our intelligence, and that its influence only increases as we get older. At kindergarten, genetics matter relatively little: what’s more important is whether your parents talk to you, read to you and practise things like counting. Sure enough, twin studies suggest that your genes account for about 20% of the variation in IQ at this age.

心理学家早就知晓基因在人类智力发育中发挥着重要的作用,并且深谙基因的影响随着人们年龄的增长才会愈加显著。在幼儿园里,遗传基因的用武之地相对较小:这一时期,幼儿的父母是否与其互动对话、是否读书给他/她听、是否带小孩练习诸如计数之类的技巧,对其智力发育的影响则更为重大。果不其然,孪生子研究表明,基因的影响占这个年龄群体智商变异的20%左右。

As you grow up and begin to think for yourself, however, your parents’ influence wears off. You spend most of your time at school anyway, and if you have the potential, your brain will develop in line with the extra stimulation. Your genes may also push you to find new ways to stimulate your mind yourself – you might pursue more intellectually demanding pastimes, join a book club, or you might be selected for a harder maths class, which should in turn raise your score. So you begin to create your own niche that reflects your genetic potential. That’s not to say that your family background doesn’t count at all – it still matters if you attend a better school or if your parents buy you lots of books. And chance factors can add up; if you find yourself unemployed or beset by a personal tragedy, your IQ may take a blow. But overall, as an adult your genes can predict about 80% of the differences between you and the next person.

然而,随着你日渐长大成熟,开始独立思考,父母对你的影响逐渐减弱。加之,你大部分时间都待在学校里,而如果你富有潜力,大脑将会对额外的刺激做出响应并协同发展。此外,你的基因也可能会促使你去寻找新的方式,实现心智上的自我激发——你可能会探求智力要求更高的消遣方式,可能会加入一个读书俱乐部,也可能会被选拔参加一个难度系数较高的数学课程,而反过来,这应该会提高你的分数。如此种种,你着手运用自己的基因潜质,开辟你自己的天地。而这不是说你的家庭背景就无关紧要——倘若你接受的是一种更为优质的学校教育,抑或你的父母给你置办了很多书籍,那么家庭的因素仍然举足轻重。同时,偶然性的因素可以锦上添花或火上浇油;假如你猛地惊觉自己身陷失业的窘境或某种个人悲剧的深渊,那么你的智商可能会遭受重创,一蹶不振。不过,总的来说,作为一名成年人,你的基因足以预报你和另一个人之间约80%的智商差异。

Yet the Flynn Effect was just too pronounced and too rapid to be explained by changing genes; natural selection happens slowly across thousands of years. So what could it be? Other psychologists were dumbfounded. “They were so wedded to the notion that intelligence only changed slowly that they couldn’t see what was in front of them.”

然而,弗林效应实在是太过显著、太过突飞猛进了,而自然选择的发生历程又十分缓慢,需要历经数千年;基因转变无法对弗林效应做出解释。那么,其中缘由又会是什么呢?对此,其他心理学家都倍感困惑。“他们过分拘泥于智力的变化只会是缓慢推进这一惯例,而对于眼前正在发生的一切却视为不见。”

In fact, the answer is not so puzzling if you compare it to another trait that has slowly grown over the decades: body height. Within one generation you will find that tall parents have taller children, and short parents have shorter children, showing a large genetic component; but if you compare different generations, you will find we are all much taller than our grandparents – and that’s not because our genes have changed. It’s because modern life, with better medicine and diet, has allowed our bodies to grow.

事实上,如果你用另一个在过去的几十年间缓慢增长的性状特征(身高)来对照理解,那么你会发现这个问题并非难以解答。在一代人的时间范围内,你会发现高个子的父母所生养的孩子个头也较高,而矮个子的父母所生养的孩子个头也较矮,可见遗传因素举足轻重;但如果你比较不同的世代,就会发现我们都比自己的祖父母辈高出很多——而这并非基因转变所致。这其实是受惠于医学进步和饮食改善,身高增长是现代生活方式的产物。

Scientific spectacles

透过“科学眼镜”看世界


Flynn and his colleague William Dickens have hypothesised that exactly the same thing was happening to our minds thanks to shifts in the cognitive demands of our society. IQ measures a variety of qualities, such as vocabulary, spatial reasoning and the ability to think abstractly and recognise categories, which together are meant to reflect a “general intelligence”. And even though we are not schooled in all these skills explicitly, our education nevertheless exercises a more abstract way of seeing the world that could help us with that task.

弗林及其同事威廉·狄更斯(William Dickens)做了假设:受社会认知需求变迁的影响,我们的心智也在历经同样的转变。智商是对人的一系列能力素质的度量,其中包括了词汇量、空间推理、抽象思维能力以及分类分析能力。这些品质合起来可反映一个人的“综合智力”。尽管我们所接受的教育并未对以上的每一项技能都进行直截了当的培训,但教育使我们习得更为抽象的世界观,进而在智商测试中助我们一臂之力。

Just think of the elementary school lessons that lead us to consider the different branches of the tree of life, the different elements and the forces of nature – we are slowly beginning to group things together into categories and classes and logical rules, which is central to many questions on the IQ test. The more children are asked to view the world through these “scientific spectacles”, the higher they will score, Flynn suggests. “Society makes highly different demands on us over time, and people have to respond.”

只要想一想那些引导我们考量生命之树不同分支、不同元素以及自然力量小学的课程。在这个过程中,我们正开始慢慢地将事物组合起来、归入不同的种类、门类和逻辑规则中——在智商测试中,这些都是众多问题考察的核心能力。弗林指出,对于一个小孩而言,他/她越是需要经常地透过这些“科学眼镜”看世界,他/她在智商测试中的得分就越高。“随着时间的推移,社会对我们的要求发生剧变,而人们又必须对此作出回应。”

But it’s not just education; some researchers have argued that our whole world is now engineered to make us think in this way, thanks to an increasing reliance on technology. Where our great-grandparents may have grappled with typewriters, our parents struggled to program their video recorder, while children today learn to use a touchscreen from an early age. Even reading the schematic London Underground map may have been tough for someone in the 1900s who was used to seeing the world more literally, Flynn says. This progression has forced us to think in hierarchies and symbols, to learn how to follow rules and draw analogies – and it is now so widespread that we forget the cognitive leaps it requires.

然而,弗林效应不仅仅是教育引导的结果;一些研究人员已经指出,纵观全世界,我们日益生活在充斥着高新技术的环境中,这进而对我们的思维方式产生了影响。例如,我们的祖父母辈可能用起打字机来都倍感吃力,我们的父母辈也需要费了番功夫才调好录像机,而新一代的孩子年纪小小就用起触摸屏来得心应手。弗林指出,在20世纪,对某些人来说,甚至连阅读伦敦地铁示意图都可能是个艰难的差事,因为他们以往习惯于观看较为文字化的世界。这些进步令我们需要有层次地运用符号思考,从而悟出规则并运用类比。而时至今日,这些思维模式如此普遍,以至于我们都忘了它还需要智力上的飞跃。

As a consequence, we all became a bit better at thinking abstractly, leading to an increase of at least 30 points over the last century. The rise in IQ may not mean we have ramped up our raw brainpower – we are fine-tuning our ancient mental machinery for the modern world, rather than upgrading it completely – but he argues that the improvements are “sociologically significant”, reflecting real changes in thinking. The Flynn Effect seems to predict a country’s rising economic performance, for instance. “If the gains were hollow, they couldn’t do that,” he says.

因此,我们全都在抽象思维能力上略高一筹,这从而引发智商分数在过去一世纪中提升了至少30 分。而智商的提高并不代表原始脑能力的大幅增加——其实我们并没有对人类古老的智力机器设备进行全面升级,而只是微调了脑力来适应现代社会的需求。然而,弗林认为这些改进“在社会层面上非常重要”,反映出实实在在的思维改变。举例来说,弗林效应似乎可预示一个国家经济指标的增长。他指出:“如果所得只是虚有其名,那么他们就不可能这么做”。

Flynn compares it to physical exercise – we are shaped by our chosen sport. “The brain is a muscle – and a change in mental exercise influences the brain just as much as if you gave up swimming for weightlifting.”

弗林以运动来作比喻,我们选择什么运动,就会被什么运动所影响所改造。“大脑就像肌肉——而转变脑力运动对大脑所造成的影响,就如同你放弃了游泳,转学举重。”

Crucially, IQ is malleable over a lifetime. This means that the elderly can still gain ground, thanks to better overall health (which is linked to intelligence) and longer-lasting, more intellectually demanding careers keeping their brains active for longer and forestalling decline. “There has been such an enormous improvement that today someone of 70 just kills a person [of the same age] 15 years ago,” he says. Overall, the rate is about 11 points a decade, he says. Flynn himself could be proof of this. “My father never ran a step after 12 and he retired at 70. I exercise more and I’ve never retired.” The result is a healthier brain and more active mind.

至关重要的是,在一个人的有生之年里,其智商都具有可塑性。这意味着,如果一个人保有较为优良的整体健康状况(与智力有关)以及更持久的、智力的要求更高的职业生涯(这可让其在较长的时段中始终保持思维活跃,进而防止智力下滑),那么等他/她老了,仍然可以在智商领域赢得一席之地。弗林指出:“改进如此之巨大,以至于现在一个70岁的人直接就秒杀一个15年前70岁的人”。他表示,总的来说,这个增长速率是每十年增加11分左右。对此,弗林本人便是明证。“我父亲12岁以后就不跑了,70岁就退休了。我勤加锻炼,从未退休。”由此而来的是一个更加健康的大脑和更加活跃的思维。

Flynn’s latest book is an attempt to fill in some of the gaps left in this picture, using an ingenious new analysis that allows him to break down the effects depending on the person at hand, and the particular skills it will effect. Consider the part of the IQ test that measures vocabulary. Having more educated parents, who talk with more varied and erudite language, will help give a boost even to people with little genetic potential; conversely, people with a genetic advantage may find themselves dragged down by those around them (just think of Lisa Simpson).

弗林的最新著作试图填补这个版图中剩余的若干空白。书中运用了一种巧妙的新型分析手法,使他能够根据手头上的个体情况,对效果进行分解并分析其所影响的特定技能。以智商测试中度量词汇量那部分为例。如果父母受过更多的教育,谈吐用词更加丰富多彩、更能旁征博引,那么即便其后代的基因潜力微不足道,也仍有望获得智力上的提振;相反,具备基因优势的人可能会发觉自己竟被周边的人给拖累了,比如丽莎·辛普森(Lisa Simpson)。

The differences are small enough that many would like to ignore them, but Flynn’s analysis shows that even a few IQ points can determine your path in life. For a fairly bright kid entering university in America, for instance, living in a slightly more academic home could push their score from 500 to 566 on the SAT exams, for instance – the difference between a place at a prestigious or more mediocre college. “Universities use the SAT as their measure of the viability of the student and if you are lousy on that you won’t go to UCLA, or if you do you will probably flunk out in the first year.”

虽然这些差异微乎其微,使得许多人想要对此忽略不计,但弗林的分析显示,即使智商测试分数只是差之毫厘,其对日后的人生道路也是决定性的影响。例如,在美国,对于一个升入大学的相当聪明的孩子来说,如果他/她生在一个学术氛围稍稍更浓的家庭中,那么很可能他/她的SAT(美国学术能力评估测验,其成绩是高中生申请大学时的重要参考)成绩会从500分增加566分——这个分差正是名牌大学的入学席位或较为平庸学院的录取通知书之间的差异。“大学使用SAT成绩作为对学生是否有望成功的衡量指标。如果你在SAT考试中表现差劲,那么你去不了加州大学洛杉矶分校(UCLA),或者你就算去了这所名校,也多半会在头一年就被迫退学。”

Flynn is not a defeatist: no matter what our family background, we all have the power to take our intellectual development into our own hands. After all, the studies show that our circumstances today shape our current IQ more than our past history. This is apparent, he says, with his mature students. “Plenty of people come to us from environments that look as if they provide very little intellectual stimulation, and compared to our average students, they gain like crazy.”

弗林并非鼓吹失败主义:无论我们的家庭背景如何,我们都有权将智力发展的未来掌握在自己手中。毕竟,研究显示,我们目前所处的周遭形势对自己当前智力状况的影响超过以往任何时候。他指出,这一点在那些不再年轻的学生身上一望而知。“在许多人原本生活的环境中,智力刺激看似寥若晨星。等他们进入大学,相较于普通学生,他们在智力上增长可谓突飞猛进,日新月异。

I ask him how else I could hope to get a brain boost. “You can marry a partner, not because they look like a star, but because you found them intellectually challenging,” he advises me. “They would introduce you into a world of ideas and peers that would make your life far more interesting.”

我向他请教:还有什么有望让人脑力激增的法子。他为我出谋划策道:“你可以在婚姻大事上做做文章,你在选择配偶时不挑颜值惊为天人的那种,而找才智过人者。在如此配偶的引荐下,你将会打开一扇思想世界大门,并结识形形色色的有识之士,从而活出远胜今朝的精彩和乐趣。”

Which brings us round to his concerns about millennials. Despite the gains in IQ, he worries that we aren’t engaging our minds effectively on the issues that matter. “I’m not being gloomy but actually the major intellectual thing that disturbs me is that young people like you are reading less history and less serious novels than you used to,” he says, arguing that we should have a background in the crises that have shaped world history before we form opinions on current politics. He chastises me for my lack of knowledge of Europe’s Thirty Years’ War, for instance, which he believes has many parallels with today’s conflicts in the Middle East. (His criticism is perfectly fair, and he is persuasive enough to convince me to fill the gaps in my knowledge.)

行文至此,让我们说回到让弗林忧心忡忡的千禧一代。尽管在智商方面今人胜古人,但令他担心的是,新的一代正在无关紧要的事情上大肆挥霍自己的聪明才智。他表示:“我并非心性阴郁悲观,而是较之往常,如你这般的年轻人越发不怎么读历史、不怎么看小说——这是种读书人关心的大问题,它让我惴惴不安。”他认为,在我们形成对当前政局的见解以前,应当先对影响世界历史的几大危机有一定的背景性了解。在此,他以欧州的“三十年战争”为例(我因对这段历史一无所知,被他严厉批评),指出“三十年战争”与当下的中东纷争有不少雷同之处。(他的批评一点儿都不强词夺理,句句掷地有声,让我心悦诚服,想要填补自己在这方面知识体系中的漏洞。)

George Orwell, he says, painted a dystopia where the government rewrites history to control and manipulate the population. “But all you need are ‘ahistorical’ people who then live in the bubble of the present, and by fashioning that bubble the government and the media can do anything they want with them,” Flynn adds.

他又提到乔治·奥威尔(George Orwell)——在这位作家所刻画的反乌托邦世界中,政府篡改历史,操控民众。他补充道:“而所有这一切需要的便是‘毫无历史观的’民众,他们活在当下的泡沫之中。政府和媒体只需对这个泡沫加以粉饰,便可随心所欲,为所欲为。”

In other words, our IQs may have risen, but this hasn’t made us any wiser. “Reading literature and reading history is the only thing that’s going to capitalise on the IQ gains of the 20th Century and make them politically relevant.” You may or may not agree, but Flynn is not the only person with this concern: as William Poundstone shows in his latest book Head In The Clouds, everyday ignorance is influencing the way we make decisions in many areas of our lives.

换句话说,人类的智商或已高出一筹,但智慧却并未因此增加分毫。“时值20世纪,想要将我们智商的增量化成有价值的东西并让它们和政治挂上钩,阅读文学和历史是唯一的途径。”对此,你或许欣然赞同,或许不以为然,但要知道,并非只有弗林怀有这种担忧:正如威廉·庞德斯通(William Poundstone)在其最新力作《异想天开》(Head In The Clouds)中所展现的,如今,人们对愚昧无知习以为常,而这一点正影响着大家的决策方式,令生活中的诸多方面都发生变化。

Whether or not Flynn will persuade young people to pick up a book, there’s no doubting that he has forever changed our views of intelligence. “Today I think I’m leaving a field where you can write genuine cognitive history,” he says – meaning that we can finally track and explain the ways the mind has changed and responded to our environment over time.

不论弗林是否会说服年轻人拿起书本,毋庸置疑的是,他永久性地变革了我们对智商的看法。他指出:“时至今日,我觉得自己正遗留下一个领域,后人可以在此谱写真正的认知历史。”也就是说,我们终于可以对人类智力随时间推移而改变的路径及其对环境做出响应的方式进行追踪和解释。

At 82, however, he hopes that other scientists will continue this work, as he plans to spend the rest of his career writing about philosophy and politics. The question of IQ was, after all, only ever supposed to be a temporary distraction. “I got sucked into this area accidentally and now thank God I may get out of it again.”

无论如何,弗林已经82岁高龄了,而且他计划将职业生涯中剩下的光阴投入到哲学和政治学领域的著书立说中,因而他希望将会有别的科学家来继续人类智力的研究工作。别忘了,对弗林教授来说,关于智商问题的研究始终都只应当是一个暂时性的分心之事。“我不经意间深陷这个领域,而今时今日,谢天谢地,我或许可以重新跳‘坑’了。”
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