Friday, April 4, 2014

The Flynn Effect In Its Entirety

Here are two recent research articles highlighting the ongoing relentlessness of the Flynn effect:
The appearance of these articles is in no way surprising: reports such as these have been popping up on a regular basis for nearly thirty years now. Of course, it was all the rage around ten years ago to proclaim the Flynn effect had been just a twentieth-century anomaly and now was coming to an end. I guess someone must have forgotten to tell the Saudi Arabian deaf children. I guess someone must have forgotten to tell the Chinese. I guess someone must have forgotten to tell just about everyone.

So let's make the current status of the Flynn effect a little more explicit, shall we: the Flynn effect is an ongoing phenomenon within the human population and all its subpopulations. That is, the Flynn effect is both active and ubiquitous. But I can go much further than that, because of course every piece of evidence from human history insists we must go further. Eschewing the narrowness of modern scientific vision, I insist we add a clause: the Flynn effect is an ongoing phenomenon within the human population and all its subpopulations, and has been so for at least the last ten thousand years, probably much longer than that. That is, the Flynn effect has been active, ubiquitous and relentless ever since man first displayed signs of intelligence and began scattering off the savannas. Far from being just a twentieth-century anomaly, the Flynn effect has become a deeply ingrained aspect of the human condition, and holds the key to intelligence itself and its significant non-neuronal component.

At the present time, no intelligence researcher recognizes the depth and breadth of the Flynn effect. Even James Flynn, who probably comes the nearest to understanding we are dealing with an ideal measure of human modernity, insists nonetheless on limiting the temporal range of that insight to mostly the last century alone, and certainly no further back than the industrial revolution. Such limited perspective is an unnecessary mistake. Limited perspectives engender limited explanations, and limited explanations are a priori inadequate, because the Flynn effect shows no evidence of being a limited phenomenon.

The latest Flynn effect explanatory fad has the Flynn effect being produced by greater guessing on standardized tests, a perfectly suitable hypothesis I would say, as long as the theory's authors are willing to boldly and courageously step forward and insist the entire human population is currently engaged in greater guessing on standardized tests and has been doing so for at least the last ten thousand years. However, if the theory's authors are for some reason hesitant to make such a claim, then I am going to insist on dismissing their puny hypothesis as entirely inadequate to the task, a dismissal they need not feel all that bad about, since of course they will have plenty of company.

Liu, J. & Lynn, R. (2013). An increase of intelligence in China 1986–2012. Intelligence, 40, 139–144.

Bakhiet, S., Barakat, S. & Lynn, R. (2014). A Flynn effect among deaf boys in Saudi Arabia. Intelligence, 44, 75–77.

Armstrong, E. & Woodley, M. A. (2013). The rule-dependence model explains the commonalities between the Flynn effect and IQ gains via retesting. Learning and Individual Differences, 29, 41–49.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The flabby wine-skin of a brain
That, spilling once and filled again,
Voids from its impotent abysm
The driblet of an aphorism.

"The Mad Philosopher" 1697