What Is the Flynn Effect?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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The Flynn Effect is the term for a phenomenon wherein an increase of the intelligent quotients (IQ) of the population is observed. These observations are largely based on the test results of different intelligent tests, such as the fluid and crystallized intelligent tests. All data have been gathered from all over the world, from countries such as Australia, China, and the US, making the Flynn Effect a global occurrence.

The recognized proponent for the Flynn Effect is James R. Flynn, a professor emeritus in New Zealand, as well as a philosopher and moralist. It was actually Richard Lynn, another professor emeritus in Britain, who first wrote about the increasing pattern, but it was Flynn who gathered, studied, and presented the data. From the early 1980s, Flynn collected statistics and figures from different countries from several decades back and noticed a gradual increase in the test scores of intelligent tests. This means that the succeeding generations garnered higher scores than the previous generations who took the same tests. Some statistics show that there is an increase of at least 3 points for each decade and 25 points at most.


The implications of the data sparked many people to find the cause of the increase, a question that has yet to be answered definitely. One simple explanation for the Flynn Effect is that test takers are simply more familiar with the tests, but this does not necessarily mean students are smarter. Schools have taken greater efforts to give reviews to students, and previous intelligent tests are taken as “dry runs.” Another explanation for the trend is nutrition. It may be proven that a healthier eating lifestyle provides the brain with improved performance, but nutrition cannot be the sole contributor to the IQ increase.

Others speculate that a higher standard of education has led to the Flynn Effect. Studies have shown that students with more years of education gained higher points than those who have less. Parents are also a factor, as they instill the importance of education in their children and invest more in their studies. Some observers also attribute the modern environment as a cause of the IQ increase, as today’s environment and progressive technology provide more stimulus to the brain.

When seen holistically, all these external factors can indeed result in the Flynn Effect. One important internal factor is the gene inheritance from one generation to another, suggesting that “nature” and “nurture” should go together in improved intelligence. Flynn has suggested that all intelligence tests be regularly updated in order to measure IQ in a more accurate manner.


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