Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Flynn Effect in the Caribbean: Generational Change of Cognitive Test Performance in Dominica

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Flynn Effect in the Caribbean: Generational Change of Cognitive Test Performance in Dominica

Article excerpt

Mental ability, as assessed by standardized tests, is not fixed in time. Large IQ gains have been recorded in many industrialized countries during the 20th century, but very little is known about IQ trends in the less developed countries. The present study investigates generational changes in mental test performance on the Caribbean island of Dominica. In a cross-sectional design, Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices were administered to two age groups: young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years, and older adults between the ages of 51 and 62 years. Raw scores were 23.3 ± 11.4 points for the older generation and 36.1 ± 10.9 points for the younger generation. Compared to the current British norms for their respective age groups, the average IQs of these two cohorts were estimated as 61 and 73, respectively. Since the age-specific British norms reflect a rising IQ trend in Britain already, the real gain in Dominica is not 12 points but approximately 17 to 19 points. The results on a vocabulary test suggest similar cohort gains in word knowledge. Differences between the Afro-Caribbean majority and the native Caribs were small. Data are presented to show that the difference between the two age groups represents a cohort effect rather than an aging effect. The implications of the Flynn effect for economic development and cultural evolution are discussed.

Key Words: Flynn effect; intelligence; IQ; Afro-Caribbean; Amerindian; Dominica; Raven's Progressive Matrices; migration; brain drain; aging effects; economic development; cultural evolution.

As measures of individual differences in complex information processing at the conscious level, IQ tests predict a vast array of real-world outcomes including school success (te Nijenhuis and van der Flier, 2004), occupational status (Thienpont and Verleye, 2003), earnings (Murray, 2002), crime (Ellis and Walsh, 2003), job performance (Schmidt and Hunter, 2004), sexual behavior (Halpern et al., 2000) and even health and longevity (Gottfredson, 2004). These correlations with real-world outcomes show that the construct of intelligence has practical and heuristic value although the nature of the underlying cognitive processes is still poorly understood.

There are large differences in the average performance on IQ tests among human populations. In a recent country-level comparison, Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen (2002) reported "national IQs" ranging from a low of 59 in Equatorial Guinea to a high of 107 in Hong Kong. Lynn and Vanhanen found a correlation of 0.73 between national IQ and GDP, and proposed that IQ is a major cause of differences in wealth between nations. Although their work has been criticized on methodological grounds (Volken, 2003), the strong relationship between IQ and GDP has been confirmed with different methods (Meisenberg, 2004). In addition to national wealth, the economic growth rate is related to national IQ (Jones and Schneider, 2004; Weede and Kampf, 2002). Thus worldwide, nations appear to be gravitating toward a level of economic development commensurate with their IQs.

In addition to national wealth, "cultural" traits are associated with IQ at the national level. "Rational-secular" values in particular, which include low religiosity and skepticism toward traditional authority, have been identified as country-level correlates of high IQ (Meisenberg, 2004). Thus there are important real-world correlates of intelligence at the national as well as the individual level, and in both cultural and economic domains.

Not only does IQ vary among nations, but it also changes over time within the same nation. Instances of rising IQ trends have been recorded since the early years of IQ testing (Cattell, 1950/51; Finch, 1946; Garfinkel and Thorndike, 1976; Lindvall and Nitko, 1975, p. 172; Loehlin et al., 1975, pp. 137-139; Smith, 1942; Tuddenham, 1948; Wheeler, 1942). This near-universal trend became known as the Flynn effect, named after the New Zealand scholar who first brought it to the attention of the academic community during the 1980s (Flynn, 1984, 1987). …

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