The 20th century witnessed a dramatic increase in IQ, as much as 3 points per decade. The fact that IQ scores increased so much in such a short amount of time has raised many issues about the nature of intelligence, and what intelligence tests are measuring. For instance, while an individual’s IQ test performance within a particular generation tends to be relatively stable and is determined by a complex mix of nature and nurture, such dramatic increases across generations demonstrates the potent influence of the environment on the development of cognitive abilities.
Over the years, various ‘social multipliers’ have been proposed to account for the Flynn Effect, including increased nutrition, increased test familiarity, heterosis, increased scientific education, video games, TV show complexity, modernization, and more. Surely a combination of factors contributed to the rise. In this post, I want to focus though on a few changes over the course of the past 100 years that have particular implications for understanding race, ethnic, and national disparities in IQ. First let’s look at literacy.