Tuesday, August 22, 2023

"American IQ Scores Have Rapidly Dropped, Proving the 'Reverse Flynn Effect'"

From Popular Mechanics, April 8 2023:

Are we really getting less intelligent? Here's the truth.

  • A Northwestern University study shows a decline in three key intelligence testing categories—a tangible example of what is called the Reverse Flynn Effect.
  • Leading up to the 1990s, IQ scores were consistently going up, but in recent years, that trend seems to have flipped. The reasons for both the increase and the decline are sill very much up for debate.
  • Scores in verbal reasoning, matrix reasoning, and letter and number series all declined but, interestingly, scores in spatial reasoning went up.

Americans’ IQ scores are trending in a downward direction. In fact, they’ve been falling for over a decade.

According to a press release, in studying intelligence testing data from 2006 to 2018, Northwestern University researchers noticed that test scores in three out of four “cognitive domains” were going down. This is the first time we’ve seen a consistent negative slope for these testing categories, providing tangible evidence of what is known as the “Reverse Flynn Effect.”

In a 1984 study, James Flynn noticed that intelligence test scores had steadily increased since the early 1930s. We call that steady rise the Flynn Effect. Considering that overall intelligence seemed to be increasing faster than could be explained by evolution, the reason increase became a source of debate, with many attributing the change to various environmental factors.

But now, it seems that a Reverse Flynn Effect is, well, in effect.

The study, published in the journal Intelligence, used an online, survey-style personality test called the Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment Project to analyze nearly 400,000 Americans. The researchers recorded responses from 2006 and 2018, in order to examine if and how cognitive ability scores were changing over time within the country. The data showed drops in logic and vocabulary (known as verbal reasoning), visual problem solving and analogies (known as matrix reasoning), and computational and mathematical abilities (known as letter and number series).

On the flip side, however, scores in spatial reasoning (known as 3D rotation) followed the opposite pattern, trending upward over the 12-year period....


Do note the sample, though large, is self selected and further research is required to examine people who decide to take online quizzes and even people who spend time online.

Perhaps the study was designed with the next grant proposal in mind.