IQ's Generation Gap: Is Intelligence Reaching New Heights, or Is Something Amiss with the Tests That Measure It?

By Bower, Bruce | Science News, August 15, 1987 | Go to article overview

IQ's Generation Gap: Is Intelligence Reaching New Heights, or Is Something Amiss with the Tests That Measure It?


Bower, Bruce, Science News


IQ's Generation Gap

In the Netherlands, IQ points are blooming faster than tulips. In fact, according to an analysis by political scientist James R. Flynn, the average IQ of Dutch draftees increased by 20 points in the span of one generation, from 1952 to 1982.

And the IQ increase is not just a Dutch treat. Flynn, of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, collected data from investigators around the world whose work is largely unknown to one another. He found single-generation IQ gains ranging from 5 to 25 points in 13 other developed nations. Among these are the United States, Japan, France, Belgium, Norway, New Zealand and Canada.

If IQ tests really tap into a fundamental aspect of intelligence, says Flynn, the implications of this trend are staggering. In the Netherlands, for instance, the 30-year increase implies that about one-quarter of the population qualifies as mentally gifted, with IQs of at least 130. Those with IQs over 150 have increased almost 60-fold since 1952--a jump that translates into 300,000 potential geniuses. "The result should be a cultural renaissance too great to be overlooked,' maintains Flynn.

There are, of course, no indications of such a dramatic leap forward in thought. Instead, as Flynn explains in an upcoming book (Measurement, Realism and Objectivity, John Forge, Ed., Reidel Publishing Co., 1987) and in the March PSYCHOLOGICAL BULLETIN, it appears that IQ tests measure not intelligence but some form of abstract problem-solving ability that has little ultimate effect on intelligence. IQ estimates of this ability have been shown to predict real-world achievements, such as job status and performance, fairly well for siblings raised in the same family or people of the same generation who share the same cultural environment. But Flynn contends that intelligence test scores cannot bridge the cultural distance that separates generations in modern industrial societies, or, for that matter, Americans from Japanese and American whites from American blacks.

A time span of 30 years is hardly long enough for genetic changes to boost IQ scores, he notes. Furthermore, the Dutch data surprisingly reveal that three environmental factors often invoked to explain improved performance on IQ tests-- more education, higher socioeconomic standing and experience in test taking-- account for only about 5 of the 20 IQ points gained. Flynn concludes that most of the increase must be due to currently unknown environmental influences.

Ironically, the greatest IQ gains occurred on "culture-fair' tests that present subjects with novel problems requiring no prior experience. One such test consists of geometric patterns, each containing a gap; the correct missing piece must be chosen from six alternatives. Other tests, such as the Stanford-Binet and Wechsler that are given in the United States, have similar measures of problemsolving but also contain items on general information, vocabulary and mathematics.

"No experience required' intelligence tests have been heralded by some researchers, most notably psychologist Arthur R. Jensen of the University of California at Berkeley, as the best measure of general mental ability, or g for short. This is a statistical calculation of what Flynn calls "the significant tendency of those who do well on one test to excel on all mental tests,' from vocabulary to number series, logical reasoning to coding digits. According to Jensen, although the true nature of g is far from clear, it is the best known predictor of success in school and college, in the armed forces and in business and industry. A substantial portion of g, in his view, is determined genetically.

Since large single-generation jumps in IQ and g have not been accompanied by proportional real-world achievements, Flynn says that Jensen's theory, grounded in the work of British psychologist Charles Spearman at the turn of the century, needs to be revised. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

IQ's Generation Gap: Is Intelligence Reaching New Heights, or Is Something Amiss with the Tests That Measure It?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.