You may believe that the children of today aren't as smart as when you were a kid. But, guess what? You'd be wrong! And it's quite possible that the opposite might be true. Researchers studying the Flynn effect have found that scores on IQ tests have been on the rise.
So what is this Flynn effect? No, it has nothing to do with Michael Flynn and/or the Russian-US election scandal. The Flynn effect was first described in the 1980's by researcher, James Flynn. He referred to the findings that IQ scores have risen over the past century. Other researchers have found evidence to back up Flynn's claim. generally, IQ scores have increased since the 1950's, although there are some exceptions. Now, the existence of the Flynn effect is rarely disputed.
So why have the Flynn effect happened? Researchers have several theories. One explanation has to do with improved health and nutrition. An example would be the knowledge that alcohol and cigarette smoking has a harmful impact on unborn babies. There has also been the discontinuation of lead-based paints, improvements in the prevention of infectious diseases and, of course, improvements in human diets. Scott Barry Kaufman writes, “The Flynn effect serves as a reminder that when we give people more opportunities to prosper, more people actually do prosper.”
Another plausible explanation has to do with societal changes that have occurred since the Industrial Revolution. James Flynn tells us that the world today is "a world where we've had to develop new mental habits, new habits of mind.” Flynn found that IQ has risen the most rapidly on questions that ask humans to find similarities between different things, as well as in more abstract problem-solving. These are skills that are more necessary now in the modern world than they were a century ago.
There have been several suggestions made to explain why modern society might lead to higher IQ scores. More humans had intellectually demanding jobs now than they did 100 years ago. Schools have changed, as well. A test given in the 1900's might rely more on the student's ability to memorize facts. But today, kids have to explain the reasons for something...not just memorize the basic facts. More students finish school and go on to college now, as well. Another factor might be family size. Having fewer children allows the parents more time to interact with their children, teaching them more vocabulary words. Even the entertainment of today is considered more complex. it didn't take a great deal of intellect to understand "Leave it To Beaver."
The Flynn effect has shown us that the human brain is much more adaptable and more malleable than was previously thought. Human thinking patterns aren't innate but, rather, something that can be learned from the human's environment. Humans think about the world today differently than did their ancestors. And thank goodness for that! It could be that the Flynn effect might even suggest that human IQ might not be what we all thought it was. Instead of being a measure of natural and unlearned intelligence, it might actually be something that can be shaped by education and the world that humans live in.
Education is even MORE important now than ever before.