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What Are the Causes of Cognitive Evolution? A Critique and Extension of Psychogenetic Theory

Gerhard Meisenberg


Published: 2014/06/01


This comment acknowledges that Oesterdiekhoff’s psychogenetic theory provides a satisfactory explanation for the co-occurrence of the important elements of modernization. In essence, rising general intelligence caused the emergence of modern industrial civilization. However, the theory as presented by Oesterdiekhoff has limited heuristic value because it does not explain why this development occurred only in Europe, why it did not occur earlier, why it occurred at all, and why cognitive, cultural, technological and economic complexity continued to rise for more than two centuries after the initial breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution. Nor does it explain why earlier civilizations either fell into stagnation or declined to a state of reduced creativity. Based on current knowledge about the causes of individual and society-level variations in intelligence, this comment presents a theoretical framework in which these questions can be answered.

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