June 27, 2006

Is Dr. Charlton on something or on to something?

Here's a Big Theory that's both new and just possibly true:

"Serious Study: Immaturity Levels Rising"
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News, June 23, 2006

"Charlton explained to Discovery News that humans have an inherent attraction to physical youth, since it can be a sign of fertility, health and vitality. In the mid-20th century, however, another force kicked in, due to increasing need for individuals to change jobs, learn new skills, move to new places and make new friends.

"A `child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and knowledge' is probably adaptive to the increased instability of the modern world, Charlton believes. Formal education now extends well past physical maturity, leaving students with minds that are, he said, `unfinished.'

"The psychological neoteny effect of formal education is an accidental by-product -- the main role of education is to increase general, abstract intelligence and prepare for economic activity, he explained. ... "But formal education requires a child-like stance of receptivity to new learning, and cognitive flexibility."

"People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact."

"Charlton added that since modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility, `immature' people tend to thrive and succeed, and have set the tone not only for contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is possible our genes may even change as a result of the psychological shift."

A striking change in our society is visible by looking at the extras in 1930s movies vs. today. What's apparent is that men in the past tried to look older than they actually were, while men today try to look younger. This is clear from the stars -- Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise are all at least as old today on the calendar, but not in looks, as Humphrey Bogart was in the "The Maltese Falcon" -- but everybody back then, apparently, was trying to look wiser and more mature than they were.

Maybe Charlton is talking through his hat, but it's an idea that deserves some consideration.

For example, attending high school wasn't all that common in America until the Depression, when high school was used to warehouse teens to keep them from competing for jobs with heads of households. (That's an undiscussed pre-requisite for the success of the GI Bill's college students after WWII -- the GI generation was the first to attend high school in huge numbers.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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