IQ scores are supposed to measure how well a person will do in school. But, what happens when the average IQ score isn’t the same from generation to generation? In this lesson, we’ll examine the Flynn effect and what might cause it.
Judy is a proud mom of a little boy named Sam.
She thinks Sam is amazing: he’s adorable and funny, and he’s smart – really, really smart. In fact, Judy has always thought that Sam was smarter than she was, and it was confirmed recently when he took an IQ test and scored a lot higher than Judy. Intelligence is scholastic aptitude; that is, it is a measure of skills needed to succeed in school. It is often measured by a test that results in a standardized score representing a person’s intelligence, which is known as an intelligence quotient, or IQ, score.When Judy’s son Sam took the IQ test, it was measuring important skills like abstract thinking and problem solving.
The resulting score doesn’t tell how good a person Sam is or what all his talents and strengths are, but they do represent how good he is likely to be at school. And because Sam scored higher than Judy, it is likely that he will be better at school than she was. Let’s look closer at one reason why Sam might have scored higher than Judy, the Flynn effect, and some possible explanations for it.
Judy is impressed that Sam scored higher than she did on the IQ test.
But, what does that mean? Is he smarter than she is, or is there something else going on?IQ tests have been around since the turn of the 20th century. As we mentioned, they measure skills that are needed to succeed in school, like abstract thinking skills. They are also standardized and normed, which means that no matter what age you are, the average IQ score is 100. But in 1994, James R. Flynn noticed that something was wrong about the average IQ score and actual IQ scores. He discovered that IQ scores increase from one generation to the next, which is called the Flynn effect after him.
Flynn noticed that each generation scores between five and 25 points higher than the previous one, so that the IQ scores for Judy’s generation might have been 100, but the next generation (Sam’s generation) would have an average IQ score of 110 or 115. This has been found to be true across cultures, for every country where data is available. Thanks to the Flynn effect, IQ tests are changed and made harder every so often, so that the average IQ score remains at 100. But there’s a bigger question at the heart of the Flynn effect: what’s going on? Why is every generation scoring better? Are we, as humans, just getting smarter and smarter?
The Flynn effect has been analyzed and demonstrated by many different people, but no one really knows why it’s occurring. There are some theories, though:1. Measurable skills – Flynn’s own theory is that the increase in IQ scores represents the skills being measured, not the overall intelligence of society.
For example, he believes that the scores are changing because we are becoming better at abstract thinking skills, not necessarily at intelligence.Take Judy and Sam. When Judy was a kid, things were concrete.
She played in her yard and climbed trees and drew pictures. But Sam plays differently: he is on the computer or video game console, which makes him have to think about images on a screen as though they were real. This means that he’s learning how to think abstractly at an earlier point in his life than Judy did. This could be why IQ skills are improving.
2. Nutrition – Worldwide, nutrition is better today than it was in past generations. Some people believe that the better nutrition could lead to better scores on the test and more well-developed brains. Some psychologists have shown that nutrition has to do with part of the Flynn effect, but not all of it.3.
Education levels – More students are going through school to a higher level today than they did in the past. For example, when Judy was a kid, most people still didn’t go to college. But now, most people do go to college. Because students are more highly educated, some people believe that’s making their scores go up.4.
Educational content – It’s not just that students are in school longer these days; the things they are being taught are also different than what Judy and her friends were taught. For example, Judy only had to take one or two timed tests when she was in school. It just wasn’t that common.
But Sam’s been taking standardized, timed tests since he was in the first grade. He’s not just being taught content but also how to take standardized, timed tests. And since IQ tests are standardized and timed, the fact that he’s better at taking those types of tests might be what’s making a difference in his scores.
Intelligence is scholastic aptitude, and it is generally measured with a score called an intelligence quotient, or IQ, score. The Flynn effect, which was discovered by James R. Flynn, is the fact that each generation scores higher on IQ tests than previous generations. The cause of the Flynn effect is not known, but it could be due to what skills are being measured, better nutrition, education levels rising, and educational content focused on how to take tests.
This lesson contains information that can help you to:
- Define intelligence and IQ score
- Detail the Flynn effect
- Reference four theories that attempt to explain why the Flynn effect occurs