How can increases in the GCA (general cognitive ability) of nations be promoted around the world?
Well, first we need to know what sort of things can influence the GCA of nations. Earl Hunt* has formulated a three-part list and I follow it here:
- Genes. Hunt is agnostic on how much effect they have: more than zero for sure, but beyond that is uncertain.
- Physical environment. An increase in the GCA of nations would probably result from better nutrition, particularly in childhood. Better health may also promote GCA. (Yet, there is a chicken-and-egg problem: good nutrition and good health require a population that understands healthy practices, plus competent health workers, plus competent and honest government officials and leaders.) Limiting environmental pollutants such as lead (in paint or in pottery glazes) may help increase GCA. (Curiously, though, in the developed world the Flynn Effect persisted through the era of lead paint and lead in gasoline.)
- Social environment. The GCA of nations might be promoted by more supportive home environment (such as a smaller family size – though perhaps higher GCA is the source of smaller family size), or by better formal education, particularly by better education at the top because one of the best predictors of economic success is the GCA of the top 5% of the population.** (Yet here again a chicken-and-egg situation arises since improvements in these things presupposes a population that understands learning techniques, competent teachers, and so on.)
As part of the social environment we could add that national GCA could probably be increased by limiting cousin marriage in places where many generations of consanguineous marriage has probably led to inbreeding depression.
Nobody really knows how much these things can do for national GCA – but at least they are worthwhile doing in themselves.
*Earl Hunt, “What Makes Nations Intelligent?” Perspectives on Psychological Science 2012 7: 284 DOI: 10.1177/1745691612442905
**Rindermann, H., & Thompson, J. P. (2011). Cognitive capitalism: The effect of cognitive ability on wealth, as mediated through scientific achievement and economic freedom. Psychological Science, 22, 754–763.