Dare to Ask: Dumb and dumber? Try overloaded
By Phillip J. Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Are people getting dumber? I’m referring to lack of common sense or
awareness. Things that used to be out of the ordinary (inattentive drivers,
shoppers with no clue about others’ carts, people unprepared for transactions,
etc.) are now commonplace. — Brad, 32, Provo, Utah
Yes. — Roxanne, Illinois
“Dumber” isn’t a word. You just proved your question. — Matt, 22, New York
People seem more self-absorbed and unwilling or unable to consider how their
actions affect others. Is it perhaps that as we have access to more information,
we become “numb” to reality? — Glenda, 23, Australia
Society has coddled those people who would have been wiped out by evolution.
— Jen, 31, Atlanta
I think people are gettin stupider. I think lots of blame lies on the
parents, and also with society. I mean, when i was younger, i got to go outside
and play wherever i wanted, and i knew not to talk with strangers. These days
parents wont let their kids go far because of kidnappers are more abundant then
when i was younger. Parents play an awesome role with this also. I mean when
your kid is caught plagerizing (spelling) do you let them know what they did was
wrong, or do you go [gripe] at the school? With these factors and many more, you
do that math. — Alex, 19, Houston
We could’ve cleaned up Alex’s reply, but we didn’t want to dilute its
relevancy and all.
Those of us who are less dumb than others (i.e. we’ve dumped “Jersey Shore”
for “Dance Your Ass Off”) already know that people are actually getting smarter.
The “Flynn Effect,” named for researcher James R. Flynn, refers to people’s IQs
as measured by standardized tests having increased an average three points per
decade since the early 20th century.
So if we’re not surrounded by more morons, what’s causing the lack of common
sense Brad’s noticing?
California psychologist Debra Moore said we’re all dealing with a ton more
stimuli, which may account for some of what’s going on.
“We’re splitting our attention. All of our senses are being bombarded,” said
Moore, who’s spent nearly three decades treating patients with inattentiveness
or ADHD. “There are more visual stimuli, more signs, blinking ones, the radio is
on, phone is ringing, the TV is on,” not to mention smart phones and websites
competing for more of our time.
When our senses overload, there’s more room for error, stress and irritation.
“Our circuit breakers have too much load on them, and our brains haven’t
evolved enough for it,” Moore said. “With a different framework like that,
especially for younger people, what was once considered rude no longer is. … We
need to reset the circuit breaker and turn off some of this stuff.”
And with that, she very politely had to stop.
“Glad we talked, but I’m in a bit of a rush … just like what we talked
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his