How We Are Becoming Much More Intelligent With Each Generation

I discovered recently the Flynn Effect, the fact that our average intelligence (as measured by the IQ test) has increased dramatically in the last decades in developed countries.

flynn effectThe IQ test is periodically calibrated to have an average of 100 and a standard deviation of 15 points. In many developed countries, the average IQ has increased by 20-30 points over the 20th century: measured as of today, our ancestors one century ago would have been considered mentally retarded (and so possibly also our grandparents).

There are many reasons proposed for this change, the most convincing being better formal education. Also, we now know that IQ only measures one kind of intelligence, and there are other forms which are as important for predicting success and social abilities.

Some recent observations would tend to show rather a stagnation of even a diminution of the average IQ in the last decade, still to be confirmed, and still to be linked with the kind of questions that are asked in the IQ test which only measure a partial side of intelligence. Still, 20th century schooling has shown a dramatic ability to improve the capability it intended to improve!

Anyway, what I find very interesting here is that it appears that our modern habits of mind and education seem to have made us much more adapted to dealing with certain kind of problems that require abstract thinking. What is amazing is the magnitude of the change over 2 generations!

For more information, watch the TED talk by James Flynn on YouTube