Cognitive Daily

Is the Flynn Effect ending? Are kids getting dumber again? Could it be that after years of striking intelligence gains, we’re now actually losing ground? We are if you read this article in the Times Online:

After studying 25,000 children across both state and private schools Philip Adey, a professor of education at King’s College London confidently declares: “The intelligence of 11-year-olds has fallen by three years’ worth in the past two decades.”

It’s an extraordinary claim. But it’s one that should startle parents and teachers out of complacency. Shocked by the findings, experts are questioning our entire exam system and calling for radical changes in the way our children are taught in primary schools.

Yikes! Sound the alarm, the article tells us. We need to wake up and smell the coffee burning before it’s too late!

But check out The American Scientist’s reporting on the same study:

First, they give the dramatic results. But they point out that the test the British researchers used was not a comprehensive IQ test, but a limited Piagetian test on volumes and weights. Then they interview the scientist who discovered the 20th century rise in IQ, James R. Flynn:

Flynn himself is much less gloomy about what appears to be happening. For one, he points out that the situation varies quite a bit from country to country. “All the evidence is that the IQ gains in America are still robust, ” he says. And he notes that at the very time that scores were declining in the UK on the Piagetian tests that Shayer examined, British kids were making gains on a test called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children or WISC. Flynn points out that results gathered with two versions of this test (WISC-III, introduced in 1991, and WISC-IV, in 2003) show the usual effect, a rise in raw scores over time. But he also notes that one subtest–on arithmetic reasoning–did show a decline.

This is not to say there aren’t limits to IQ gains, which Flynn acknowledges may be the case in some Scandinavian countries. But given the fact that IQ is still increasing in Britain on some measures, shouldn’t we try to find out why, before demanding sweeping curricular changes?

(via Eide Neurolearning Blog)


  1. #1 Caledonian
    August 29, 2006

    It would be nice if we acknowledged that ever-increasing scores on IQ tests do not in fact mean that we’re getting smarter, that the most subtle and powerful aspects of intelligence tests aren’t even captured by IQ tests, and that while IQs have risen standardized test scores have dropped.

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    August 29, 2006

    Good points, Caledonian. I should probably also link to this post every time I write something about IQ.

  3. #3 Caledonian
    August 29, 2006

    Dang it! I post about IQ, and then I put a redundant ‘test’ in the second clause. (That first usage is in error.)

    Why does it always seems that people say and do particularly stupid things when the subject of intelligence comes up?