Are We Getting Smarter? James R Flynn

Are We Getting Smarter? James R FlynnIf you have ever thought that you have a higher IQ than your parents, or wondered how fast your child was learning to read and write, you will find this book fascinating.

James R Flynn has surmised that the world is getting smarter, generation by generation and asks the question – why? Denoted as the the ‘Flynn effect’, he identifies that IQ test scores have significantly increased from one generation to the next over the past century.

In this book, he aims to make sense of this rise in IQ scores and considers what this tells us about our intelligence, our minds and society. Are We Getting Smarter? features fascinating new material on a variety of topics including the effects of intelligence in the developing world; the impact of rising IQ scores on the death penalty, cognitive ability in old age and the language abilities of youth culture; as well as controversial topics of race and gender.

He ends with the message that assessing IQ goes astray if society is ignored. As IQ scores continue to rise into the twenty-first century, particularly in the developing world, the ‘Flynn effect’ marches on. The book attempts to:

  • Clarifies ‘The Flynn Effect’ – the significance of massive IQ gains over time – and extends the theories of What Is Intelligence? to focus on explanations for the eponymous effect
  • Features exciting new material on IQ and its effects on race and gender differences; the death penalty; memory loss; adolescence; and aging
  • Unites psychology and sociology to falsify misinterpreted research results such as women being less intelligent than men; black people being less intelligent than white; the diagnosis of black women as psychotic; and the linking of violence with low-IQ

About the author:

James R Flynn, 73, is a renowned professor emeritus at the University of Otago in New Zealand, and he still teaches and researches.

He speaks on finance and tax for the left-of-centre Alliance Party. Flynn says, “Our advantage over our ancestors is relatively uniform at all ages from the cradle to the grave. Nobody knows if the gains will persist, but there is no doubt that they dominated the 20th century and that their existence and size were quite unexpected.” Through much research today we know that IQs have gone up throughout the 20th century.

Almost 30 countries, some developed, some still developing, have recorded gains. The whole world got smarter, and fast. But no one knew how, or why, or what this meant. Until Flynn started his research and began asking the all important questions, “Why are we not struck by the extraordinary subtlety of our children’s conversation?” and “Why do we not have to make allowances for the limitations of our parents?”

Flynn tells us that if you project IQ gains back to 1900, the average score would be less than 70 on current norms. “That’s the cut-off for a diagnosis of mental retardation,” Flynn says. If people in 1900 were as thick-skulled as that, how on earth did they manage to run a modern society?

So was the influence nature or nurture? How did these generational gains occur at all? Everything that was known about IQ suggested that by far the strongest influence on it was genetic: parents and their children tend to have similar IQs; the IQs of identical twins are closer than those of fraternal twins; and the effects on IQ of environmental factors such as better schooling tend to fade.

Flynn says, “And yet, IQ gains are so great as to signal the existence of environmental factors of enormous potency.” So how could environment be so feeble and so potent at the same time? Could it be the differing social techniques of parenting that change every generation?

Flynn sees this every time he looks at his two-year-old grandson. “His parents have enlisted in the great crusade of intellectual stimulation. If he identifies something they immediately pounce on it. A parent 30 years ago who was looking at a book with their child, if the child said, ‘that’s a cow’; they would say, ‘you’re right, it’s a cow.

‘ Today’s parent will add, ‘And what noise does a cow make? How many legs does a cow have?’ And away they go.”

A fascinating read for anyone with an IQ of over 70! To buy the book by James R Flynn for £16.99 visit Amazon.

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