"Possibly more, depending on the relative acceleration of certain societal factors," said Dr. Francis Spitznagel of the Pew Center, citing the number of reality television shows on the air, the preponderance of comments sections on news websites, and whether a Tea Party candidate is elected president.
"It was not that long ago that it was relatively uncommon to come across an obtuse person," noted Spitznagel, particularly outside of certain high-obtuseness hotspots like hockey arenas, and the South. "These days it's not unusual for entire families, and in some cases entire social groups, to be obtuse. Often morbidly obtuse."
The study pointed to several possible causes of obtuseness in Americans, including a decline in education funding, and Rush Limbaugh. But far and away the primary factor is the rise of the Internet, said Spitznagel.
"The definition of obtuse is 'lacking quickness of perception or intellect,' and the Internet caters specifically to people with those qualities," said Spitznagel, noting the recent finding that more than 80 percent of the Internet is pictures of cats.
"Fifty or even 20 years ago it was much more common for people to expand their intellectual horizons, just to keep from getting bored," Spitznagel explained. "Nowadays those same people can just spend their time playing Farmville or uploading pictures of their kids to one of Google's several dozen social networking sites.
"Plus, if there's a topic you don't understand or that is nuanced enough to require multi-level thinking, you can just go into the comments section and call it retarded, along with the dozens of other obtuse people doing the same thing," noted Spitznagel.