The Flynn Effect and Its Reversal in the 21st Century or Why the Humanity Is Getting Dumber

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the flynn effect

The Flynn Effect describes how IQs rose for the first part of the 20th century.

With all advances in technology, our knowledge about diet and health, and the easy access we have to education, you’d think IQs would continue to rise. And they were. Up until the 21st century, at least, and this is exactly what the Flynn Effect describes. From the early part of the 20th century, IQs were increasing at a rate of 10 points per generation. Which is surprising as the food was pretty basic and health education in its infancy.

However, according to some studies, the early boost in IQ in the 20th century is now falling. All this despite great technological strides, huge leaps in medicine, and access to better nutrition. Experts now suggest that in the last twenty or thirty years, humans have started getting dumber and dumber.

In order to find out why we are dumbing down, let’s explore the Flynn Effect. Why did we get smarter in the first place?

The Flynn Effect and how we got smarter

The Flynn Effect is named after intelligence researcher James Flynn. He observed rapid rises in IQs for every decade in the 20th century. However, it’s a little more interesting than just higher IQ scores. If you delve deeper, it is our fluid intelligence that has risen, more so than our crystallized intelligence.

  • Fluid Intelligence: our ability to solve problems, use logic and understand patterns.
  • Crystallized Intelligence: our ability to use learned information, such as vocabulary and maths skills.

So what was the reason for the Flynn Effect?

Researchers put the increased IQ down to, not one, but several factors:

You could say that the Flynn Effect is down to our progress as a species. So why, as we are still evolving, is our IQ now dropping? The data shows that from the 1970’s onwards, our intelligence has started falling.

In one study, data was used from compulsory IQ tests given to young Norwegian military servicemen between 1970 and 2009. Over 730,000 results were collected. The results suggested that each generation dropped an average of 7 IQ points.

The study authors say:

“…our results remain consistent with a number of proposed hypotheses of IQ decline: changes in educational exposure or quality, changing media exposure, worsening nutrition or health…”

So why is humanity getting dumber?

Here are five possible reasons:

  1. EDUCATION

In the 20th century, pupils learnt by studying and then completing coursework which would be graded at the end of a term. This would typically be followed by an exam to complete the course. This system allowed students to use logic and abstract thinking when carrying out their coursework.

In the last few decades, the education system has completely changed. There is no longer the option of coursework, where a student can carry out their own research and use their fluid thinking. There is just one exam at the end of a term. All you need for this exam is the ability to recall information. In other words, crystallized intelligence.

By teaching in this way, we are not getting our children to use their full potential.

  1. WORK

Is work an important source of our cognitive development? In the US, one study revealed an interesting correlation between intelligence and the rise of certain types of work and the fall of others:

From 1990 to 2012:

  • ‘Working Class’ jobs fell drastically from 31.4% to 20.5%
  • ‘Creative Class’ jobs rose slightly from 29.3 to 32.0
  • ‘Service Class’ jobs rose drastically from 39.3 to 48.5

Service class jobs include personal care assistants, nursing assistants, retails sales, food preparation workers (McDonald’s), all classed as low-skilled. In order to carry out these low skill jobs, you do not need to think on your feet, or to be able to solve problems quickly. Most of your work is mundane and routine.

In other words, you do not need fluid intelligence, crystallized intelligence will do just fine. With more and more people going into these kinds of service jobs, where employment is being deliberately ‘dumbed down’, could this be a reason for falling IQs?

  1. FOOD

Despite much education about healthy food and what is bad for us, in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were classed as obese. Being overweight isn’t just bad for your body, it is also bad for your brain. Obesity causes high blood pressure and inflammation, which irritates the brain’s communication signals.

This means it is harder for messages to get through. Being obese also disrupts the brain’s memory functions and the areas associated with decision-making.

Back in the early 20th century, there were many social aspects that affected the way we ate. Women tended to be at home, making meals from scratch and families would sit around the table together. These days, both parents are out working, ready meals are available, if not a takeaway, and kids eat up in their bedrooms with no social interaction.

  1. IMMIGRATION

Another reason for declining IQ scores, in the Netherlands and the US at least, could be a factor of immigration. Data reviewed from studies of young Danes who were children of immigrants to the country showed a poor performance on IQ tests. This was compared to the local children.

Of course, there could be a number of reasons; poverty, malnutrition, poor health, all of these depress IQ. The rise of immigrants to developed countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway are on the increase. This could result in further decreases in IQs in those regions.

  1. CELEBRITY

My final thought is that the kind of celebrity we are aspiring after also has an effect on our brains. Decades ago, celebrities were untouchable, they were famous for doing something incredible, achieving great things.

Nowadays, you can get your private parts out, release a sex tape, or have sex on TV and become an overnight success. In the UK, we have a ‘celebrity’ who cannot tell the time. He is renowned for being stupid. These are our role models for the younger generation. And we wonder why IQs are falling?

Do you think we are getting dumber or do you disagree with the Flynn Effect altogether?

References:

  1. http://www.pnas.org
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org
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Janey D.

Janey Davies has been published online for over 8 years. She is the head writer for Shoppersbase.com, she also writes for AvecAgnes.co.uk, Ewawigs.com and has contributed to inside3DP.com. She has an Honours Degree in Psychology and her passions include learning about the mind, popular science and politics. When she is relaxing she likes to walk her dog, read science fiction and listen to Muse.




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By | 2018-06-24T17:53:59+00:00 June 30th, 2018|Categories: Education, Food for thought, Human Brain, Uncommon Science|Tags: , , , |4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Gary Hynous June 30, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    So, I guess we’re getting dumber and fatter! Not a pretty picture.

  2. bob July 1, 2018 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    totally agree, children now havn’t got a hope of being like we were, too many things are wrong for instance threre is no deterrent, if your not allowed to correct children they will milk the situation for what its worth, they know that even the police aren’t allowed to touch them, at one time if a child saw a policeman they would run away now they stand and give them a load of verbal, bring back conscription like macron wants to do in france, teachers now are nearly as young as the kids themselves what’s that all about ? and what’s to respect there ?, as for so called self opinionated celebrities they are just a joke, if you can stand on stage or in front of a camera and utter a load of obscenities you are a comedian (apparently) and what’s worse is the people watching them are so thick dumb and stupid they sit there cheering them on encouraging them, so much for role models, what we need is a total reversal in the law which allows kids to be corrected, and before anyone shouts no no, there is a difference between correction as in punishment and deliberately treating a child bad which i assume none of us would agree with, the parent should know what’s best for the children and if not then they shouldn’t be parents in the first place, there is sometimes talk of the nanny state in the uk but what people do not realise is if parents are too restricted of lazy to correct their kids then at some point the state will have to take over, this can take many forms but at some point take over it will, a frend of mine has 3 children 2 of which are twins and he said if any of my kids deserves a clip round the ear that’s what they get and bugger the law, after all he only wants them to grow up repectfull of others and their property, something unfortunately the law now does not take into account, anyone of a decent age well remebers the old clip round the ear and looking back it did do the trick and yes it did make us better people in adulthood and actually thankfull to our parents for bringing us up that way 🙂 . as for food well i think the child should eat what he or she want’s to eat but at the same time be given guide lines on what’s healthy and what isn’t but ultimately no one wants to sit there eating rabits food if they don’t want it, ideally a mixture of food on different days would be better, as the old saying goes a little of what you fancy does you good, too much of anything will become bad for you eventually if common sense is not used, but i do think over self opinionated charaters like jamie oliver should butt right out and let the kids eat what they want to eat as long as it is interspersed with more healthier options but not just to take away kids favourits completely (stupid person)

  3. Carlos July 2, 2018 at 12:31 am - Reply

    Finally, confirmation of what I’ve been saying for years!!!!!!!!!! SO TRUE!!!!!!!

  4. jeff July 7, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    It’s programmed social conditioning and it is doomed to failure. People are waking up too fast and TPTB are trying to slow it down. Their plan wont work. Consciousness is in control.
    People will continue to get smarter.

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