James Flynn: Intelligence Researcher, Overview

Instructor: Mary Firestone
Learn about James Flynn and his research on intelligence. Find out what the 'Flynn effect' is and the possible causes for it. Read the lesson, then take a quiz to test your new knowledge.

James Flynn

James R. Flynn is an intelligence researcher who was born in Washington, D.C., and educated in Chicago, Illinois. He's famous for his discovery that human intelligence is increasing each year in over thirty countries around the world. Flynn is currently an Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Flynn Effect

In the 1980s, Flynn conducted a study and found that over a period of sixty years, IQ test scores increased steadily from one generation to the next. The data was collected from sources in the United States, Canada, Australia, several countries in Europe, as well as China, Israel, Japan and New Zealand (thirty countries in all), and it showed that children scored between five to twenty five points higher on IQ tests than their parents.

Why are We Getting Smarter?

Scientists and researchers have speculated that improvements in education and nutrition play a role in the higher scores of later generations. Others say that video games and television increase spatial and visual intelligence, since the types of skills that show an increase on tests 'require mental manipulation of objects, logical inference, and abstract reasoning.'

Flynn breaks the causes of rising IQ scores into three main areas: 'The ultimate cause...is the Industrial Revolution. The proximate cause is how our minds differ from people in 1900 when in the test room. And the intermediate causes, of course, are more cognitively demanding work roles, more cognitively demanding leisure, more formal schooling, and smaller families.'

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