The Flynn Effect

Are we getting smarter? - The Flynn effect

Recent research has had surprising results.

These reveal that over the years, the results in the IQ tests have been increasing.

This news has caused great expectation, therefore, it could be concluded that our descendants will be increasingly intelligent.

Such a phenomenon is known as “The Flynn Effect”. Let's learn a little more about it.

1.Where did the term “Flynn Effect” come from?

Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray

The term "Flynn effect" was coined by professors Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, who in 1994, in their book “The Bell Curve”, described the increase in IQ that occurs from one generation to another.

They decided to choose this term in reference to the researcher James Flynn, who had been one of the first to shed light on this phenomenon.

2. But what is the Flynn effect?

The Flynn effect is a phenomenon that states that the IQ of the world's population shows a constant increase since the beginning of the 20th century.

New Zealand researcher James Robert Flynn was the first to defend this idea, arguing that:

  • this is due to the influence of environmental factors and,
  • not to theories based on racial or genetic superiority.
Increased IQ through the years

Something like this draws quite a lot of attention and can lead us to ask the following question:

if the IQ increases from one generation to another,

Does this mean that our grandchildren are going to be gifted compared to us? surprise

To answer this, it is necessary to review important nuances that must be taken into account when talking about this phenomenon, which we will continue to review in this article.

3. What are the possible causes of this phenomenon?

The increases detected in the Intellectual Coefficient have occurred quickly. In some cases,the increase has been found to be as much as 10 points in just 30 years.

This makes us think that this growth is not due to genetic variations, but to:

  • social,
  • educational,
  • family and
  • nutritional changes.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these likely causes:

Improvement of education

Some researchers suggest that the Flynn effect is due to rising literacy rates and concerns about better quality education, especially for children of low socioeconomic status.


Compensation of nutritional deficits

A century ago, in most parts of the world, there was no adequate infant nutrition. This poor diet was directly related to low IQ scores.

It is obvious that this nutritional deficit interferes with the cognitive development of children; however, this problem has already been addressed in many parts of the world, so it could be a cause of the Flynn effect.


Advances in medicine

Together with the improvement of nutritional conditions, advances in medicine have allowed for a reduction in the number of infectious diseases.

This has contributed to a decrease in brain damage, especially in children.


Familiarity with IQ tests

For some decades, schools have been using formats very similar to IQ tests within their evaluations.

This has caused students to become familiar with this type of test. This would be one of the reasons why these students solve the tests more efficiently and quickly.

IQ Tests

In addition to these factors, Flynn believes that there is another fundamental factor: technology.

Let's see a little more about this

4. What is the relationship between technology and the Flynn effect?

James Flynn

James Flynn, in his book “What is intelligence?” (2007), affirms that not only social changes have contributed to the growth of the IQ.

Flynn argues that it is technological changes that have increased the abstract reasoning ability of the world's population.

According to Flynn, this is because new technologies, such as interactive screens and a variety of virtual games, stimulate the brain, which makes today's children to

  • change the way they process information,
  • improve the ability to establish relationships between objects,
  • develop their abstract reasoning, and
  • develop faster in their perception.

5. If we are getting smarter… are we also happier?

Although the Flynn effect maintains that each time our abstract reasoning is more skillful, this is not always directly related to personal satisfaction or happiness.

As we mentioned before, one of the causes for having a greater ability to solve problems is technological advancement. This in turn has put us in a new and even more complex scenario.

happiness and intelligence

Well, we are aware that technology has also contributed to

  • changing our way of relating to other people,
  • changing the way we see ourselves, and
  • understanding the world differently.

This has led to a greater step towards social individualism, which is reproduced in less personal satisfaction or sense of well-being.

6. Will future generations be an intellectually gifted population?

Although the Flynn effect is maintained in populations with low socioeconomic levels, studies carried out in recent decades ensure that this phenomenon is being reduced worldwide.

This means that the IQ currently tends to fall, even maintaining the Flynn effect in some countries.

As we can see, this is an issue from which definitive conclusions cannot yet be drawn.

However, it is important to know the state of our IQ, because this allows us to:

  • know the potential of our abilities,
  • know our weaknesses,
  • follow an adequate program to improve our learning.

or, why not, in a few years, compare our IQ with the results of our future generations and thus validate the veracity of the Flynn Effect.

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