May 30, 2005

The Flynn Effect Conundrum Summarized:

A reader writes:

Either the Flynn effect is an artifact of testing, or it measures a real difference in IQ over time.

If it is an artifact, then something is very wrong with IQ testing. Tests that cannot measure IQ across time in the same culture to within an sd (17 point difference between 1947 and 2001) cannot, it seems to me, be trusted to measure differences across cultures, which might lead one to wonder how well they measure differences between individuals.

If the difference is real, then the American IQ in 1947 was lower than that of blacks today. This suggests that a low IQ is no impediment to managing a technoindustrial society and being perhaps the world's leading scientific power. (Was the national IQ about 70 in 1900, 55 in 1850?)

If the difference is real, it cannot well be accounted for by evolution, since the less intelligent notoriously breed faster than the intelligent now and in any event, given that most people live to the end of their reproductive years, the selective pressure is hard to see. A standard deviation in fifty years is remarkably fast evolution, no?

In which case, again if the difference in IQ is real, there has to be something going on instead of, or in addition to, standard evolution. What?

In either case, artifact or real difference, the implications seem to be large. Yet the results of IQ tests seem to me to track well with observable performance, both in groups and individuals. Most curious.


My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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