James flynn iq

Beyond the Flynn effect: new myths about race, family and IQ? | Race in education

In the garden of a terraced house in Oxford, on the hottest, sunniest day of the year, I meet Professor James R Flynn, an American-born academic who is a hero to many people. More than 30 years ago, he discovered a phenomenon that revolutionised the study of IQ and seemed finally to settle the argument over nature versus nurture. He showed that, across the world, average IQs had risen by roughly three percentage points every decade since at least 1930, and probably much longer.

Since evolution doesn’t work fast enough to produce genetic upgrading on that scale, it seemed that environment must be the dominant influence. According to Flynn, rising IQs went hand-in-hand with modernisation, which involves more years of education and more jobs that require analytic abilities and abstract thinking. The belief that better schooling, and positive discrimination in favour of disadvantaged children, could make a difference was seemingly vindicated.

The view, put forward by a number of British and American academics at that time, that black people’s IQs were genetically inferior to those of whites and Asians was finally discredited. So was the idea that African countries were poor because their inhabitants were stupid. IQs in developing countries also rise as they modernise and will eventually catch up those in developed countries. Best of all, rising IQs led to better moral reasoning, putting racism and sexism on the defensive.

Nearly all psychologists now accept what they call “the Flynn effect”, a remarkable accolade for a man who isn’t even a specialist in psychology, his academic subject being political studies. This is not the only reason to admire “Jim”, as family and friends call him. He is also an ardent democratic socialist who left an academic career in the US because he believed he was held back by his political views and his activity in the civil rights movement. He exiled himself to New Zealand in the 1960s, becoming a professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin. There, he helped found the Alliance party, and stood unsuccessfully for parliament against the local version of New Labour. He named his son, Victor, now an Oxford maths professor, after Eugene Victor Debs, five times presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America.

This, I think, as we sit in Victor’s garden, is like meeting Einstein or Freud, men who changed for ever the way we see the world. Flynn, now 82, speaks fluently and wittily in Irish-American cadences (his grandfather, a teacher, fled the 19th-century Great Hunger in Ireland). He runs twice a day “though not as fast as I did 10 years ago”. He still teaches four-fifths of a timetable at Otago and writes nearly a book a year.

We are here to talk about his latest book, Does Your Family Make You Smarter? Having explored IQ differences between generations, he has turned his attention to those within generations, which is a different matter. It is already evident to me, after reading the book, that the Flynn effect doesn’t settle as much as some of us thought or hoped it did. And that by 21st-century standards, perhaps Flynn doesn’t quite measure up as a liberal hero.

The answer to the question in the title, Flynn explains, is that your family environment’s effect on your IQ almost disappears by the age of 17. An important exception is in the vocabulary component of IQ tests, where the effect persists into the mid-20s and can make a big difference, at least in the US, to the chances of getting into a top university. The home has most influence in early childhood but is swamped by later environments at school, university and work. And they will more closely match your genes because you will seek out (and be chosen for) environments that match your “genetic potential”, whether it’s basketball, carpentry or mathematics.

So having taken genes out of the equation, Flynn has apparently put them back in. Nurture hasn’t won after all. Over the years, a modernised environment will raise everyone’s game. But within each generation, the gap between groups – classes, races, genders – can, at least theoretically, remain the same as they were. In practice, groups previously excluded from full access to education and professional careers will close the gap.

Flynn emphasises that a rise in the potency of genes isn’t matched by a corresponding decline in the potency of environment: “The potency of one is added to the potency of the other.” Moreover, 20% of IQ differences are attributable to neither environment nor genes but to “chance factors” of which our ability to improve ourselves is the most important.

“You can be at the 98th percentile [more intelligent than all but 2% of the population],” he says. “At school, you kick teachers in the ankles, don’t hand in your homework, get into fights and end up being suspended. You become a bricklayer in a humdrum environment and it costs you, say, 10 IQ points. Then you think: to hell with this, all these guys talk about is girls and football, I’m going to university. Your IQ could rise from 120 to 130 and you’ve leapfrogged four-fifths of the people ahead of you.”

We are talking averages, of course. So I ignore the implied slur on bricklayers, accept the good news – that free will has a significant role – and move on.

If we are all getting brighter and better at moral reasoning, how does Flynn account for Donald Trump? “The rise of visual culture means far fewer people read serious novels and history. They live in a bubble of the present, believing what they are told because they have nothing to position it against. Improved analytic abilities do not make you a better citizen.”

And if we bring back grammar schools, is it possible to set a tutor-proof 11-plus exam? “Yes, but only by giving everyone a tutor.”

I have many more questions but one in particular looms over discussions about IQ and we both know we can’t avoid it. It was, after all, to challenge the late Arthur Jensen, professor of educational psychology at the University of California, Berkeley – who claimed the genes of African Americans were responsible for their inferior IQ scores – that Flynn began to examine the evidence on intelligence. But a sentence from his new book is nagging away at me. American blacks, it says, “come from a cognitively restricted subculture”.

This is hugely sensitive territory because, while it may be good to say genes don’t make people stupid, it isn’t so good to tell anyone their way of life does. Flynn, however, makes no apologies. “It’s whites, not blacks, who complain,” he says. “Blacks know the score. Facts are facts.” On recorded IQ tests, he says, African Americans have persistently lagged behind [pdf] most other ethnicities in America [pdf] (including, according to some commentators, black immigrants from, for example, the Caribbean) and this cannot be explained by the Flynn effect since, as he puts it, “blacks don’t live in a time warp”.

He then tells what sounds like a version of those dodgy jokes about the Irishman, the Scotsman and the Englishman. Except this isn’t a joke. “Go to the American suburbs one evening,” says Flynn, “and find three professors. The Chinese professor’s kids immediately do their homework. The Jewish professor’s kids have to be yelled at. The black professor says: ‘Why don’t we go out and shoot a few baskets?’”

As I emit a liberal gasp, he continues: “The parenting is worse in black homes, even when you equate them for socio-economic status. In the late 1970s, an experiment took 46 black adoptees and gave half to black professional families and half to white professionals with all the mothers having 16 years of education. When their IQs were tested at eight-and-a-half, the white-raised kids were 13.5 IQ points ahead. The mothers were asked to do problem-solving with their children. Universally, the blacks were impatient, the whites encouraging. Immediate achievement is rewarded in black subculture but not long-term achievement where you have to forgo immediate gratification.”

He tells me of research showing that “when American troops occupied Germany at the end of the second world war, black soldiers left behind half-black children and white soldiers left behind all-white. By 11, the two groups had identical average IQs. In Germany, there was no black subculture.”

Flynn refuses to speculate about the lingering effects of slavery and subsequent discrimination that have prevented African Americans from entering colleges and professional careers. Universities, he thinks, should do more research on racial differences and a new version of that 1970s study. “I have shown – this wicked person who actually looks at the evidence – that blacks gained 5.5 IQ points on whites between 1972 and 2002. There’s been no changes in family structure [the incidence of single-parent families], no gains in income. I suspect it’s an improvement in parenting. But I can’t prove it.”

I leave that sunlit garden in a troubled frame of mind. Flynn has made a great contribution to human knowledge and understanding. But he hasn’t settled the nature-against-nurture debate – and I wonder if he is now muddying the waters, constructing theories about parenting from flimsy evidence.

James Flynn and the Flynn Effect: Death of an IQ Philosopher

The recent death of James Flynn in New Zealand touched me in two ways:

  • I bonded with him over BBQ and music when we hung out together a few years ago while waiting to testify in a death penalty trial in Memphis Tennessee
  • The subject of the “Flynn Effect” named after him, often comes up in the course of my forensic testimony as a psychological expert in so-called “Atkins vs Virginia proceedings” where a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability (ID, formerly known as “Mental Retardation”) can cause the death penalty to be taken off the table.

The reason for that is because when applied correctly it can cause someone’s full-scale IQ score to be lowered by a few points, and (given that IQ still plays a big role in determining ID) a lowered score can save the life of a defendant in a capital trial.

James Flynn

Source: Bryce Edwards from Dunedin, New Zealand on Wikimedia Commons

There is much confusion over the Flynn Effect (FE) so here is a boiled-down explanation. Flynn was a Professor of Political Philosophy (an Aristotle specialist) at the University of Otago who was interested in the misuse of intelligence research (such as by Jensen) to justify racist attitudes or policies. Before emigrating to New Zealand in the 1960s, Flynn was a civil rights organizer in eastern Kentucky and left the U.S. due to disillusionment paired with credible threats against his life. In the course of his research, he discovered that publishers of the three most widely used US tests—WISC, WAIS, Stanford-Binet—toughen the norms every time they come out with a new edition. The reason: The norming samples (constituted to reflect the population at the most recent census) obtained higher raw scores on items on the new version (determined by having a sub-sample of the norming subjects take for example both the WAIS-3 and the WAIS-4 with order varied), with the improved performance being especially notable for non-verbal tasks.

The reason for toughening the norms was so that the mean IQ score for the U. S. population continued to be 100. The consistent finding, from studies over many years, is that mean full-scale IQ rises by 3 points per decade. When looking at someone’s obtained IQ score, the Flynn-relevant practice is to subtract 0.3 full-scale points per year of norm obsolescence, determined by subtracting the year of norm-collection (which on average is two years prior to publication) from the year of test administration.

If someone obtained a full-scale score of 77 on a test with 10-year-old norms, a Flynn correction would adjust the score to 74 (10 times 0.3 is 3, subtracted from 77 is 74). As the cut-score typically used in ID definitions is 75 (formerly it was 70), this adjustment would move someone from the range of ”Borderline Intelligence” to the range of “Mild ID.” (The obscenity of using IQ cut-scores to determine disability status is another matter, which I shall save for a later entry). In the course of observing or participating in many criminal trials over the past 18 years, I have seen psychologists and lawyers make a multitude of errors when talking about the FE. Here is just one of those errors.

A common mistake is to point to research in Scandinavia involving testing of military recruits, suggesting that the trend line has reversed and the population IQ is now declining, rather than increasing. By this reasoning, the FE should no longer be considered operative. There are three reasons for rejecting this argument:

  • The FE has been established, to my knowledge, only on editions of the WISC, WAIS, and Stanford-Binet, published, and normed, in the US. It has not been meaningfully studied for tests published in other countries, and for tests other than the three named above. Thus, what happens in Scandinavia or other countries outside the US (virtually none of which have capital punishment) is irrelevant. When applying the FE to individuals tested in the US, what matters is the tests given to them, not a test normed and administered in say Denmark
  • A second reason is that the studies in Scandinavia do not really use IQ tests; rather they are jury-rigged cognitive batteries including the Raven’s Progressive Matrices, put together for incoming military recruits. Thus, this research cannot be used to characterize the IQ scores of these subjects let alone a nation’s population.
  • The third reason is that the subjects were tested only once with the same battery, while in the Flynn studies they were tested twice, with different test editions.

Such a cross-sectional method is very subject to confounding by extraneous population changes such as the education level of the recruits. In the time when the Scandinavian military scores were going up, there were increasing numbers of soldiers coming in with college degrees, while in recent years there has been an influx of people emigrating from Middle Eastern countries, with far fewer of them having college degrees. Such a methodological confound makes any argument about an end to the FE to be nonsensical.

All of the studies conducted by Flynn and others (including the test publishers themselves) have shown the FE to still be alive and well. As long as this continues to be the case, then it should be applied to adjust the scores on any test for which norm obsolescence data has been collected. The reason, as stated by James Flynn himself, is so that determination of ID, and imposition of the death penalty, should not be a lottery affected by the accident of which test edition was administered and on which date. It is very possible, as Flynn himself acknowledged that U.S. population performance on IQ items will tail off or even reverse direction at some point in the future. That day has not yet arrived, however, from what I can tell.

Copyright Stephen Greenspan

Our IQ is as high as ever, but we are not getting any smarter

  • David Robson
  • BBC Future

Image copyright, Getty Images

We tend to think that our level of intelligence depends on genes and education. However, world-famous psychologist James Flynn told BBC Future that a person's intellectual abilities are influenced by many factors - up to the choice of a life partner.

James Flynn worries that the world will soon belong to Generation Y.

Flynn, who teaches at New Zealand's University of Otago, regularly meets bright students with great potential, but it turns out that many of them are completely uninterested in the complex history of our world.

"They know how to handle all these new technologies, but, nevertheless, leaving the walls of the university, they are no different from the medieval peasants, locked in their little world," says Flynn. modernity, but they are still locked in it, because they do not know the historical dimension.

  • High IQ will not make you wise and happy
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  • "Beware, people!": IQ and future salary
  • "Beware, people!": IQ tests are one hundred and ten years old

As a result, according to the professor, the views of the younger generation on current problems are too superficial, which leaves a lot of room for manipulation of their minds by politicians and the media.

We are talking in the living room of Flynn's son, Victor, an Oxford mathematics professor whose father came to visit from New Zealand.

There is an open book on the couch: Flynn Sr. is currently reading the novel "Runaway" by Alice Munro. He reads as a literary critic - this role he tries on himself in the hope of tearing the younger generation away from smartphones and making them look at the world more broadly.

"My book is coming out this year, in which I tell young people: damn it, you're educated, so why don't you read?" - says Flynn, recalling that in his youth, "girls refused to date guys who were not familiar with new literary novelties."

I made an appointment with Flynn to talk about his recently published book, Are You Getting Smarter Through Your Family? (Does Your Family Make You Smarter?). In it, the professor talks about how human thinking changes over time.

It also affects the mysterious phenomenon of the gradual increase in the intelligence quotient (IQ) on the planet. It was thanks to the discovery of this phenomenon, now known as the "Flynn effect", that the professor gained worldwide fame.

In addition, the new book describes various factors that influence the development of intelligence throughout our lives.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

Thanks to their high levels of health care and education, Generation Y is perhaps the most intelligent person in history

Flynn, now 82, is a great authority on intelligence research.

But, according to him, this career for him is nothing more than a temporary hobby: "I am a specialist in moral philosophy, who decided to change it with psychology for a while. This led to the fact that in the last 30 years a good half of my time went to psychology classes.

In a philosophical search for the nature of objectivism, Flynn came to consider claims about the intellectual superiority of some races over others.

While trying to find documentary evidence that would confirm or disprove this hypothesis, he unexpectedly found that the average level of IQ of humanity as a whole, regardless of race, steadily increases by about three points in ten years.

To his surprise, almost no one except him paid attention to this.

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"It struck me that psychologists aren't jubilant about this," says Flynn. After all, we were talking about serious jumps in the level of intelligence - the Dutch, for example, added as much as 20 points in the period from 1934 to 1964.

However, even those who conducted intelligence tests overlooked this phenomenon. "The results were in front of their noses, but they just didn't notice them."

Psychologists have long known that genes have a significant influence on the level of intelligence, and that their role only grows with age.

In kindergarten, genetic features do not really matter; for the formation of a child at this age, it is much more important that parents talk to him, read to him and teach him various skills - for example, counting.

Studies of twin pairs indicate that in preschoolers, genes are responsible for about 20% of differences in intelligence.

As we grow older, we begin to think for ourselves, and parental influence on us weakens. We spend most of our time in school, and it is school that shapes our intelligence - depending on our genetic potential.

Due to our genetic predisposition, we ourselves can find additional ways to stimulate the mind: choose more intellectual activities, join a book club, or qualify for a class with advanced mathematics. And this, in turn, will increase our level of intelligence.

We are gradually starting to create our own niche that reflects our genetic potential. However, this does not mean that the family no longer plays any role in our development: the choice of school and the size of the home library are of no small importance.

Do not underestimate the influence of random factors - the loss of a job or a personal tragedy can negatively affect the level of our intellect.

However, in general, about 80% of the intelligence of an adult is determined by genes.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

The increase in IQ was too fast to be attributed to genetic changes - so what happened?

Yet the increase in IQ levels described by the Flynn effect was too rapid to be attributed to genetic changes, since evolutionary changes in genes take thousands of years.

So what is the reason? The psychologists were confused.

"They got too used to the idea that intelligence changes very slowly, and just didn't notice what was going on in front of their eyes," says Flynn.

Actually, the answer is not so difficult, if we think of another parameter that has been gradually changing over the past decades - our growth.

The idea that tall parents give birth to tall children sounds quite logical - it is undoubtedly the work of genes.

However, if we compare several generations, it will be found that our growth significantly exceeds the growth of our ancestors. And not because of changes in the genes, but because modern life, with its high level of medicine and quality nutrition, has given us the opportunity to grow.

Flynn and his colleague William Dickens suggested that similar changes occur with our intellect due to the growing demands placed by society on the mental abilities of the individual.

The intelligence test measures a range of parameters such as vocabulary size, spatial reasoning, abstract reasoning and information classification.

Taken together, these skills reflect "general intelligence". And although we are not specifically taught them, modern education instills in us the ability to view the world more abstractly, which helps us score higher on an intelligence test.

In elementary school we are taught to look at life through the prism of natural phenomena and physical laws - we gradually begin to classify objects and phenomena and apply the rules of logic. It is these abilities that are required in order to correctly answer many questions in an intelligence test.

The more we teach children to look at the world through these "scientific glasses," the higher their scores, says Flynn: "Society's demands on the individual change over time, and the individual has to adapt."

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

Western education teaches us to look at the world through "scientific glasses" we can think differently.

Our great-great-grandfathers tried to use a typewriter, our parents mastered the VCR, and our children know how to use a touch screen from a very young age.

For a person who lived in the early 20th century and had a very concrete view of the world, it was very difficult to understand the abstract map of the London Underground, says Flynn.

Technological progress has forced us to think in terms of hierarchies and symbols, learn to follow rules and draw analogies - and we are so used to this that we cannot imagine what a gigantic change in thinking our current abilities have cost humanity.

As a result, we have all developed abstract thinking, which has led to an increase in the average IQ worldwide of at least 30 points over the past century.

This growth does not necessarily mean that we have begun to use the potential of the brain more efficiently - this is not about "pumping" mental abilities, but about adjusting them to the requirements of our time.

However, Flynn argues that this phenomenon has "sociological significance" because it reflects real changes in our thinking.

According to some data, based on the Flynn effect, it is possible to predict, for example, the growth of the economy of a particular country.

"If the benefits [from higher IQ] had no practical consequences, this would not happen," - says the scientist.

Flynn draws a parallel with physical exercise: the form of our muscles depends on the sport we play: "The brain is the same muscle, and changes in the nature of mental exercise affect it in the same way as if we stopped swimming and started raise the bar."

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

Personal tragedies, such as the loss of a loved one, can negatively impact IQ

The important thing is that IQ can change over time. This means that older people are able to maintain clarity of mind, taking care of their health (which directly affects intelligence) and actively engaging in mental work, which allows them to keep the brain in good shape for as long as possible.

"The change is so big that, in terms of intelligence, a 70-year-old person today is beating a person of the same age 15 years ago," says Flynn.

Overall, IQ growth is about 11 points per decade, he notes.

Flynn himself is a good example of this process: "My father didn't exercise from the age of 12 and retired at 70. I lead a much more active lifestyle and still work." The result is a healthier brain and a more active mind.

Flynn's new book is an attempt to fill in the gaps in this hypothesis with a new analytical method: the factors that influence the development of intelligence are considered in relation to a particular person and evaluated in terms of their influence on the development of certain skills.

Take the vocabulary section of an intelligence test. Living in an educated family that uses a richer language in everyday life can contribute to the development of a child even with modest genetic potential.

The reverse is also true: a person with a certain genetic potential can be dragged into an intellectual swamp by his immediate environment. Suffice it to recall Lisa - a gifted girl from the animated series "The Simpsons", who is not allowed to fully realize herself.

Intellectual differences are small enough that most of us choose to ignore them, but Flynn's analysis shows that even a few extra points on an IQ test can determine the rest of our lives.

So, for a bright kid going to an American university, the fact that he grew up in a slightly more intelligent family may mean that he will score not 500 on the SAT test, and 566 points. And this is the difference between a prestigious and a more mediocre educational institution.

"Universities interpret SAT scores as an indicator of potential students' ability to master the university curriculum," explains Flynn.

"If your scores are not high, then you will not be accepted into a prestigious university - and even if they are accepted, then most likely you will drop out of there in the first year of study. "

Image copyright, Thinkstock

Image caption,

It is possible that active use of technological innovations from an early age helps to develop our intelligence

Flynn is not prone to pessimism: according to him, no matter what family we grew up in, we all still have the opportunity to take our own intellectual development into our own hands.

Research shows that the current circumstances of a person's life have a greater influence on the current level of intelligence than his past.

This becomes clear when you look at university undergraduates, says Flynn: "Many of them grew up in an environment that provided very limited opportunities for intellectual development, but once they entered the walls of the university, their development took off at a rapid pace."

I'm asking how else to develop the intellect. "When choosing a partner or life partner, proceed not from appearance, but from how much he or she is superior to you intellectually," the professor advises.

"This way you will get access to a world of new ideas, meet a lot of interesting people, and this will make your life much more interesting."

Which brings us back to his concerns about Generation Y.

Flynn says that, despite the increase in IQ, this generation squanders its intelligence on unimportant things.

"Don't think I'm being grouchy, but what worries me most is that young people like you read far fewer historical books and prefer far less serious fiction than previous generations."

According to him, before forming your own opinion about current political events, it would not hurt to thoroughly study the factors that influenced the course of world history in the past.

Thus, Flynn reproaches me for my poor knowledge of the history of the Thirty Years' War in Europe, in which, in his opinion, one can find many parallels with the current Middle East conflict. (His criticism is perfectly justified, and I promise myself to fill this gap in education. )

Image copyright Thinkstock

Image caption

Generation Y may not have a good idea of ​​the historical parallels of current events

Flynn recalls George Orwell's dystopian vision of a future in which the government is rewriting history and manipulating the population.

"Actually, it's enough just not to know history and live in the compartment of today - then the government and the media will be able to do whatever they want with you," emphasizes the professor.

In other words, our intelligence may have increased, but we have not become smarter: "Reading literature and studying history is the only thing that can help us take advantage of the increase in IQ over the past century in today's political conditions."

This opinion may seem controversial, but Flynn is not the only one who is worried about the future of Generation Y: in his latest book Head in the Clouds, American journalist William Poundstone emphasizes that ignorance affects the decision-making process in many areas of our life.

Even if Flynn fails to convince young people to read more, there is no doubt that he has already changed the way we think about intelligence forever.

"I leave behind material that can be used to create a really good cognitive theory," he says.

And this means that we will be able to understand how our mind changes in response to changes in the world around us.

Flynn hopes that others will continue his work, and he plans to write about philosophy and politics himself.

For him, the study of the intellect has always been nothing more than a temporary occupation. "I got involved in this area by accident and, thank God, now I can leave it again."

Read the original of this article in English on the BBC Future website .

THE FLYNN EFFECT: is the global crisis linked to the lack of "intellectual fuel"? | HuxleŞ

Photo: Joni Järvinen / worldofarts.

Genes or culture - what does our level of intelligence actually depend on? And why is it so important to us? Everything seems to be clear with genes - natural selection has been working on them for millions of years. As a result, our genome received approximately 20,000 genes, of which a third work in the brain. Here they are, being inherited, and primarily determine our cognitive abilities.


According to modern research, a significant part of the variability in intelligence is explained by genetic differences between people. In small children it is 10–20%, and in adults it is 40–60%. The intelligence of adults is more influenced by genes, because, unlike infants, they themselves can choose the cultural environment that suits their inclinations.

Thus, the evolution of intelligence has not stopped - it changes both genetically and culturally. At the same time, the interrelationship and mutual influence of cultural and genetic evolution are so strong that it is almost impossible to separate one from the other. As a result, the question arises: what happens to our intellect from generation to generation?


In the 1980s, New Zealand scientist James R. Flynn studied this issue carefully and concluded that, on average, IQ scores in the human population increase over time.

The reasons for this phenomenon, which was called the "Flynn effect", the researchers associated with the fact that human thinking is "virtualized" - he has to solve more and more abstract, hypothetical problems. Over the past 75 years, work and education in general, from the point of view of knowledge, have indeed become more difficult, which is what the Flynn effect has recorded.

Between 1932 and 1978, according to James Flynn, IQ increased by 13.8 points, about 3 points every decade. It is estimated that if this trend continues, then by 2300 the average intelligence will reach 200 - today it is considered a measure of genius.


However, the inquisitive human mind did not rest on this. Research into IQ dynamics continued after Flynn. In 2018, Norwegian researchers Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg decided to measure the IQ of Norwegian men 1962-1991 years of birth, who entered the military service.

As a result, the "reverse Flynn effect" was discovered. Based on the results of 730,000 tests, the researchers found that the beginning of the downtrend was 1975. Whereas previous generations added an average of 0.3 points to IQ every year, since the mid-1970s, these figures have fallen on average by 7 points per generation.

However, the fact that "something wrong" is happening to today's youth began to be suspected long before the publication of the scientific works of Bratsberg and Rogeberg. In 2009Flynn recorded a 2-point decline in the IQ scores of 14-year-old British teenagers over 28 years.

Scientists suggest that these processes may be global in nature and they develop under the influence of modern culture - computer games, electronic media and social networks. The brain today needs to remember much less - all the information is on the Internet. Many tasks that had to be solved before become irrelevant. For example, written and oral counting, drawing skills, etc.

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An anthropological hypothesis can serve as weak consolation here, stating that the brain mass of Homo sapiens and the level of IQ began to decline not yesterday. Perhaps the processes of brain degradation last for thousands of years, and the farther our ancestors are from us, the smarter they are than us?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to test this hypothesis - it is impossible to obtain data at the time depth necessary for such a study. However, no matter how the world and the cultural environment around us change, evolution, which once gave birth to a reasonable person, most likely will not give up so easily.

Scientists point to the incredible neuroplasticity of the brain. This means that the usual methods of measuring the level of intelligence could become outdated. The brain is not actually "dull", but modified.

Intelligence is not so much reduced as it becomes different, adapting to the requirements of modern realities. In 2011, psychologist Kathy Price studied the IQs of British teenagers and found 20-point variability.


There are a huge number of factors that affect intelligence. Statistics say, for example, that children in large families are inferior in IQ to those who are the only or second child in the family. Moreover, each subsequent child in a large family has a lower IQ than the previous one.

But this is explained not by the degradation of genes, but by upbringing - the first-born child gets much more developmental influences from his parents. Affects the development of intelligence and nutrition. And not so much quantity as quality.

In not the most well-fed years of World War II, the growth of intelligence among Europeans did not slow down. But modern products can be much more dangerous than malnutrition. So, it has been proven that the exclusion from the diet of sweet soda, which our children love so much, leads to an increase in school performance.


There is another important aspect that Flynn draws attention to. He is convinced that the growth of the economy is directly related to the presence of a sufficient amount of "intellectual fuel" in the population. Financial or energy resources alone are not enough for this.

Accordingly, the economic crisis of our time can be associated with a global decline in the "intellectual bar". The New Zealand scientist points out that trillions of dollars have already been spent by governments and central banks to extinguish the global fire.

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