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Flynn Effect says humans have gotten smarter

Flynn Effect says humans have gotten smarter

Flynn Effect says humans have gotten smarter
April 08
23:14 2015

Harrison Long / Staff Writer

There may finally be evidence for parents to brag about the intelligence of their child.

According to a study at Kings College in London, IQ tests designed to show the aptitude of an individual through a series of questions has shown a significant increase in average score over the past century.

Taken from a pool of 405 previousl studies, with over 200,000 different reported IQs, the consensus among researchers is on average, the overall score has risen 20 points since 1950. With results varying across 64 years and 48 countries, the outcome is not typical of any one demographic or social class.

“Although I feel that technology has made us lazier as a whole, I definitely feel that with education being more widespread and readily available today, we’ve discovered a new level of human understanding,” psychology sophomore Kaitlyn Traster said. Traster said she decided to study psychology because she was interested in the concept of the human mind and the motivations behind peoples’ actions.


On the first floor of Willis Library, UNT students are hard at work.  The multiple study areas at Willis are able to accommodate UNT’s large student population. 

Despite the revelation presented by researchers, another theory has gained prominence: the Flynn Effect.

In 1982, philosopher and psychologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, James Flynn, stumbled upon something similar when examining previous IQ tests from years prior. Flynn noted that every 25 years, when the tests were revised, the administrators of the test would present both the old and the new test to individuals with startling results.

“And I noticed in all the test manuals, in every instance, those who took the old test got a higher score than they did on the new test,” Flynn said in an interview with BBC.

His conclusion is humans have gotten more intelligent. Flynn estimates if the average American were to take an IQ test from 100 years ago, they would undoubtedly score exponentially higher than their counterparts – probably around 130 – and if a person from a century ago were to take a modern test, their score would most likely fall around 70 points.

In short, Flynn estimates the average person’s IQ has risen about three points per decade for the last 100 years.

“Culture is dynamic and ever-changing,” geography professor Matthew Fry said. “The very idea of IQ and IQ tests are as much a part of a culture complex as anything else.”

Flynn’s response was part of an article presented earlier this month by the BBC, which detailed researchers’ hypotheses as well as Flynn’s perspective. In the article, Flynn described the studies of indigenous Russian populates by neuroscientist Alexander Luria.

The Russian scientist found their thinking to differ from those in the modern world. Russians were found to be pragmatic and concrete in their thinking, and had what Flynn described in the article as an “incapability of using logical abstractions or taking hypotheticals seriously.”

“One culture’s measure of intelligence (e.g. IQ) is going to be much more attended to that culture’s characteristics than it is to another culture’s,” Fry said.

Sophomore Jon Hernandez of the UNT Career Center said parties interested in IQ testing can visit Chestnut Hall for more information. Although there is no specific IQ test on hand, employees of the center can educate students about an aptitude test that examines similar concepts to Flynn’s theory.

“We are available to help find out more about your career goals and determine what type of learning is ideal.” Hernandez said. “This version is about five years old. I feel that it is truly the way to go if you have any questions about what you may want to do in life. It’s phenomenal.”

Featured Image: Students on the first floor of Willis Library take advantage of the library’s Mac station. Photos by Erica Wieting – Staff Photographer

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