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IQ scores are falling globally - Do the smart machines symbolize the end of smart people?

February 20, 2019 Admin 8 min. Lifestyle
IQ scores are falling Globally The Flynn effect refers to The Reversal of Flynn Effect?Fluid Intelligence

With all the scientific advancement and material comforts, that are available in almost every home across the world, a majority of people in the world believe that the human race has reached unparalleled success in all spheres of life, and it will just get better and better, in the future. Most of the people believe that the future is in good hands & everything is fine with the world. Although optimism is an important virtue for progress in life, but it is also important that the touch with reality should never be lost. The article just dwells on some hard-rational facts, as concluded by researchers after in-depth study, that may shatter the popular opinion in the society, which paints a very rosy picture regarding the future of human race.


The Flynn Effect

Most of the scientific advances manifesting in various items of daily use around us, both in our homes and external environment are a product of intelligent minds, that developed in 20th century. Corelating with these advances, the average human intelligence also saw a marked increase in the said period. This could be tested by various tests available to check & measure human intelligence. James R Flynn was one of the first person to document this effect and promote this fact among different people of the world.

IQ scores are falling Globally
Normalized distribution of IQ with mean of 100 and standard deviation 15

The Flynn Effect refers to the observation that a long-sustained increase occurred in general intelligence test score results, that was measured in different parts of the world in the 20th century. A very good example of this fact, is a study that demonstrated an overall increase in IQ scores by 3 points per decade in the last century. Corroborative similar studies in Asian countries like – South Korea and Japan, also gave similar results.


The Reversal of Flynn Effect?

The Flynn effect had a tremendous positive effect for all those concerned, who thought that this was a welcome change, heralding a new era of human development. Unfortunately, researchers from Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Norway, have shown that phenomenon of Flynn effect peaked for people born in mid 1970s, but since then it is gradually & steadily decreasing. This conclusion was reached by the researchers after studying 730,000 IQ tests results of young men in Norway, who had undergone the test as an integral part of the country’s compulsory military service. The men undergoing the test had all been born between 1962 to 1991.  


The result clearly showed the previous gradual increase in IQ level had peaked in the middle of 1970s, after which the gradual deterioration started. Similar test in Britain, France, Netherland, Denmark, Finland and Estonia also produced similar results, reflecting the fact that these changes were an indicator of a changing trend, which was certainly not restricted to some well-defined area. This fall of IQ that has been occurring since last few decades has evoked concerns by experts, cutting across national boundaries. Attempts have been made by many experts to identify the cause of these regressive changes, to understand it better. 


Different Forms of Intelligence/ Types of Intelligence

Before we go any further with our discussion, it would be important to describe the two main types/varieties of Intelligence as described by the famous psychologist – Raymond Cattell in the year 1963. 


Fluid Intelligence – This denotes a capability of a person to reason and have flexible thinking, identify patterns and use logic to solve new problems. This form of intelligence is most commonly seen as presence of mind in day to day life practices and can also be commonly described as being street smart. Hence the people with high fluid intelligence are very flexible and adapt to new conditions or situations very fast, even without having a similar experience in the past.

Many experts believe that unhealthy obsession with social media is causing dumbing down of the society.
Many experts believe that unhealthy obsession with social media is causing dumbing down of the society.

Crystallized Intelligence – In contrast to the previously described Fluid Intelligence, Crystallized Intelligence is the capability to use previously learned knowledge and past experience for the best desired results. This can be estimated to a great extent by a person’s hold on their vocabulary and depth of general knowledge. This does increase to certain extent with the ageing process – as a person’s experience and knowledge increases over time.


What is the Cause of Drop of Intelligence in Recent Times?

Many different theories have been given to explain the cause of fall of intelligence in recent times. Dysgenic Fertility Theory is the believe that, lesser intelligent parents will have more kids with less intelligence; compared to highly intelligent parents, who will have less children but with more intelligence. This in time will lead to overall dumbing down of the society. Research has proved that this is not happening in the real world, as changes in IQ score is even occurring within the same families; hence dysgenic fertility theory can’t be held responsible for low IQ test result observed globally.


 However, one of the most popular theories advocated by experts is the environmental factor, which includes massive lifestyle alteration of the present generation, that is grossly different to the situation that was present one generation back.


It is very true that children and teenagers in 21st century are spending much more of their time on mobile phones, checking social media or playing video games, rather than playing on field or other kinds of real-life interaction between people. The trend of reading books for increasing one’s knowledge has almost disappeared. The only books that young generation of today reads, are those strictly restricted to academics. No doubt, that thinking abilities of the young upcoming generation is severely restricted and myopic, which can hamper their reaction in day to day situations.


Scepticism and Controversy

Many people do not agree with the above stated facts and maintain that a general trend of fall of IQ compared to what was present few decades back, does not necessarily mean that every teenager of the present generation is dumb, when compared to the generations before them; which is certainly very true.

A vast majority of children are failing to satisfy their parent's expected standards.
A vast majority of children are failing to satisfy their parent's expected standards.

Some experts also believe that the IQ testing methods still use old methodology, and have not been modified with the changing times. This in turns gives rise to a false error in judging the rational and reasoning used by the young people of today. In other words, the youngster of today, may not be necessarily dumb as the result of these IQ test may highlight, but are only victims of judgment by a system, which was grossly inaccurate (in the present context) to begin with.



Many people believe that young people of today are not as smart as their parents. This finding has been substantiated and proved by researchers working across the world by comparing IQ test results across generations. However, there are some experts, who believe that this conclusion is a case of biased reporting. These experts believe that standard IQ test are based to measure both – Fluid and Crystallized intelligence. Unfortunately, Fluid intelligence, in which an individual uses logic to solve new problems, is not commonly emphasized in today’s world. That would mean that the fault lies with the testing methods & not with the millennial generation; which may not be a bad thing at all. In that case, we can always hope that the future is in safe hands.

( DECLARATION - All the images used in this site, are either from personal collection, or are images available in Public Domain. The owner of this website is grateful to all those, who donated their images to – Wikipedia, Wikimedia, Flickr, Deviant Art, Pinterest, Pixabay and all other sites; for free use, as images in Public Domain.)

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