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Posts Tagged ‘Flynn’

Getting Smarter

“Human nature” appears to be one of the few constants in a world of rapid social change. We assume that an American transported from, say, 1900 would have pretty much the same character, instincts, impulses, and mind as an American today. But on at least one important dimension of human nature, there is considerable evidence of major and rapid change in the last century: cognitive skills. In a recent column for the Boston Review — linked here — I expand an earlier blog post on how people seem to have been getting “smarter” over recent generations.

Update (12/11/17)

In a 2017 article, James Flynn and Michael Shayer report evidence that intelligence test scores may be dropping in northern Europe since about the turn of the century (but not–so far– in the U.S.). The changes are complex and vary by kind of test and vary by specific age groups. But, it may be, the authors suggest, that the sorts of social developments that encouraged cognitive development in the general population over the twentieth century have played out. Also, new developments, such as reduced need for some sorts of cognitive skills thanks to new technologies, may weaken the cognitive growth that comes from cognitive demands. At a broader level, the authors point out that what is similar for both the growth and now seeming stall of test scores is how they respond to very particular social conditions. (6/13/18:  And see here for further analysis.)

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