Flynn effect

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The Flynn effect is the substantial increase in average scores on intelligence tests all over the world. When IQ tests are initially standardized using a standardization sample the average result is set to 100. By convention, the standard deviation of the results is set to 15 points. When IQ tests are revised they are again standardized using a new standardization sample and the average result set to 100. However, if the new sample is tested using older tests in almost every case they score substantially above 100.The effect has been observed in most parts of the world at different rates. The Flynn effect is named for James R. Flynn, who did much to document it and promote awareness of its implications. The term itself was coined by the authors of The Bell Curve.[1] Rushton has argued that the effect should be called the "Lynn-Flynn effect", after Richard Lynn, "because it was actually the Lynn (1982) article in Nature that first identified the trend in recent times (among the Japanese)."[2] Similar improvements have been reported for other cognitions such as semantic and episodic memory.[3]

The effect's increase has been continuous and approximately linear from the earliest years of testing to the present. There are numerous proposed explanations of the Flynn effect and also some skepticism about its implications. The Flynn effect may have ended in at least a few developed nations, possibly allowing the national differences in IQ scores to diminish if the Flynn effects continues in nations with lower average national IQs.[4]


The rise in IQ

IQ tests are updated periodically. For example, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), originally developed in 1949, was updated in 1974 and 1991. The revised versions are standardized to 100 using new standardization samples. In ordinary use IQ tests are scored with respect to those standardization samples. The only way to compare the difficulty of two versions of a test is to conduct a separate study in which the same subjects take both versions. Doing so confirms IQ gains over time. The average rate of increase seems to be about three IQ points per decade in the US on tests such as the WISC. The increasing raw scores appear on every major test, in every age range and in every modern industrialized country although not necessarily at the same rate as in the US using the WISC. The increase has been continuous and roughly linear from the earliest days of testing to the present.[5] Though the effect is most associated with IQ increases, a similar effect has been found with increases of semantic and episodic memory.[3]

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