Friday, October 2, 2009

The Flynn Effect

A curious phenomenon has been noted regarding children and IQ tests. The average scores of IQ tests administered to children have been rising over time. It is currently unknown if this rise is due to greater intelligence on the part of the children or some other social factor at work. The world's children are gaining an average of 3 IQ points per decade. It is known as the Flynn Effect.

It was expected that the rise in IQ points would coincide with school related knowledge, such as arithmetic or vocabulary. However, the opposite appears to be taking place. The noted rise in points affects General Intelligence Factor questions, and it is predominately skewed in the lower end.

Every few years, the standard IQ tests are "re-normalized" that is, the point value is recomputed to ensure the tests stay at a consistent level. As these tests are normalized, they appear to be inching upwards, driven by the rise in the lower end IQ scores. It is surmised that if a group of children in the year 1932 were to take a modern IQ test, they would be considered borderline mentally retarded.

The media rich environment kids live in today has been proposed by some to be a cause of this effect, but other factors appear to have an influence too. One of these influences is the possibility that with increased schooling and test taking, children are learning to take tests and pass them without truly comprehending the knowledge. It has been observed that a child, if given the same test to re-take, will score an average of 5 points better on the follow-on exam. The scientist who first noted this effect, James Flynn, has proposed these tests are not actually testing meaningful intelligence or knowledge, and are simply keying in on increased mental analysis or processing. This being the result of the rapidly changing tech heavy modern environment.

A disturbing note, is that this seeming Flynn Effect, appears to have stopped progressing, as many of the younger generations tested do not show the expected improved point scores. What this "Flynn Effect" is actually showing us is not currently know.

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