What Does the Flynn Effect Say About Pre-20th Century Geniuses vs. Current Intellectual Leaders?
The problem is that if today's average citizen is at a
level that would have been called "gifted" in 1916, and today's child
with a ratio IQ of 150 (deviation IQ of 143) has a ratio IQ of 200 by the
standards of 1916, what does that say about the IQ's of Albert Einstein, Neils
Bohr, Edna St. Vincent Millay and H. G. Wells, to name a few intellectuals
of the day? A ratio IQ of 170 (deviation IQ of 156) in 1902 would have
translated into a ratio IQ of 119 (deviation IQ of 118) today. And since the Flynn Effect extends back to individuals born at least
as far back as 1877, someone born in that era with a ratio IQ of 160 (one in a
thousand) would have a present-day IQ of 112 (1 in 4.4). Is that reasonable? Dr.
James T. Flynn, discoverer of the Flynn Effect, didn't think so. He felt that
the Flynn Effect couldn't be real because it led to s population of borderline
morons in 1902, and to a population with an average IQ (by today's standards) of
65 in 1885. How does one explain Newton, Shakespeare, Voltaire, da Vinci,
Einstein, and other great geniuses of the past? Of course, the changes in
intelligence have been confined to non-verbal intelligence... pattern
recognition, spatial visualization, and "aha" insights.
On the flip side, if our average students have IQ's of 133 on a 1916 scale, and are therefore "gifted" by the standards of that era, where is the evidence of that boost in intelligence? Do our children learn to read earlier than previous generations? Are they ready for high school by 11 instead of 14? A present-day child with a deviation IQ of 143 (ratio IQ of 150) would be equivalent to a child with a ratio IQ of 200 in 1916, and would be expected to learn to read at 2 or 3. Is this happening? A present-day child with a deviation IQ of 150 (ratio IQ of 160) would have a ratio IQ of 213 on the 1916 Stanford Binet, and would, I suspect, have been the smartest child ever tested in that time frame.
Of course, the real progress has been in the non-verbal areas of IQ. Here, the shift has been upward by about 60 points of non-verbal IQ. Today's average citizen has reasoning and pattern recognition capabilities matched by only one in a thousand individuals in 1916 Someone today with an IQ of 120 has non-verbal rivaled only by one in a million individuals in 1916.