Flynn Effect: Modernity Made Us Smarter
Scientific American interviews James R. Flynn
The Flynn Effect is the observation that IQ scores rise over time. Flynn says this effect is continuing at about 3 points per decade.
“We have no idea the gulf that separates our minds from people 100 years ago in America,” says Flynn.
“At conception I don’t think our brains would look any different. At autopsy we would have used our brains very differently than our ancestors … Probably the analytic portions of your brains are enlarged compared to your ancestors, while the rote memory portions are not … And I say you tell me whether we’re more intelligent. This is the cash value of the change. The word is unimportant. I would prefer to say our brains are more modern.”
Flynn has also identified a “bright tax” among the aged. People with higher intelligence have steeper declines in analytic abilities in old age than those with lower intelligence.
“The brighter you are, the heavier the bright tax. Verbal you get a bright bonus. The brighter you are, the less the decline in verbal intelligence. … Working memory is bright neutral. Verbal bright bonus. Processing speed and analytical bright tax. Whatever the reason for the downward go, it’s still good to exercise your brain.”