The Flynn effect

The Flynn effect is the substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world from roughly 1930 to the present day. When intelligence quotient (IQ) tests are initially standardized using a sample of test-takers, by convention the average of the test results is set to 100 and theirstandard deviation is set to 15 or 16 IQ points. When IQ tests are revised, they are again standardized using a new sample of test-takers, usually born more recently than the first. Again, the average result is set to 100. However, when the new test subjects take the older tests, in almost every case their average scores are significantly above 100.

Test score increases have been continuous and approximately linear from the earliest years of testing to the present. For the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test, subjects born over a 100-year period were compared in Des Moines, Iowa, and separately in Dumfries, Scotland. Improvements were remarkably consistent across the whole period, in both countries.[1] This effect of an apparent increase in IQ has also been observed in various other parts of the world, though the rates of increase vary.[2]

There are numerous proposed explanations of the Flynn effect, as well as some skepticism about its implications. Similar improvements have been reported for other cognitions such as semantic and episodic memory.[3] Recent research suggests that the Flynn effect may have ended in at least a few developed nations, possibly allowing national differences in IQ scores[4] to diminish if the Flynn effect continues in nations with lower average national IQs.

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