30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
The Flynn effect
Ways We Differ
Humans are getting cleverer. At least that’s what appears to be happening if you compare average performance on intelligence tests today with average scores achieved by previous generations through the twentieth century. The phenomenon has been dubbed ’the Flynn effect’, after the New Zealand Professor of Political Studies James R. Flynn who first noticed it. The same pattern has been found for the nearly thirty countries for which we have the necessary historical data. How big is the intelligence rise? According to Flynn, if we allocated an IQ score of 100 to the average performance of contemporary American adults (as is the convention), an American adult of average intelligence in the year 1900 would, by today’s standards, achieve a score of between 50 and 70. This is the range normally considered learning disabled! Of course the Victorians weren’t all stupid. Further investigation shows that it’s only on certain subscales that we have improved — especially those that tap our ability to categorize concepts and recognize abstract rules. Flynn believes that it’s the rising ubiquity of science education and visual technologies that have boosted our performance in these specific areas.
Average performance on intelligence tests increased throughout much of the twentieth century.
Data from the end of the twentieth century suggest that the Flynn effect has stopped in some developed nations and may even have started to reverse. A 2008 study by Thomas Teasdale and David Owen of Danish army conscripts found that those who had their intelligence tested in 2003—4 had significantly lower IQ scores than those tested in 1998. The cause is unknown.
NATURE VIA NURTURE
The chances are that you have a substantially higher IQ than your grandparents. But does that really mean that you’re cleverer or just better at taking tests?