The Flynn Effect and closing the IQ gap

By Guest Author 19/07/2012 2


by Toby Hendy, Katikati College student and winner of the 2012 Eureka Symposium Secondary School orator’s award

IQ tests were designed to see who would succeed in the education system and we typically use them to measure intelligence. However, across different social groups we have seen gaps in IQ scores.

It is a taboo subject, but it is also important to understand that these gaps in IQ are not influenced by genetics and rather by social and environmental factors. 

University of Otago Professor James Flynn studies IQ differences in many countries across the world.

He established the Flynn Effect which showed a long sustained increase in IQ over several generations. On average we are each 3 points smarter than our predecessors. This is because with the modern day puzzles and sequences contained in IQ tests, they are really testing how well we have adapted to our modern world. Each successive generation is more familiar with visual analysis and has been exposed to richer learning displays, especially with the increase of technology in our daily lives.

Concentrated in the lower end of the distribution, the Flynn Effect shows us that it is possible to close the IQ gap by applying science to our education initiatives.

The ingrained desire to succeed is what has accelerated the IQs of high achieving groups such as East Asians and allowed them to succeed in our modern world. Their inspiration started in 500 BC with Confucius, but we can start today. A rugby player who studies physics or a rapper who places importance on success is all it may take to help our own underachievement.

As well as being given the powerful appetite for learning our students need to be taught to analyse the world through scientific spectacles. Utilising free online video resources, creating small classes with highly competent teachers and focused learning, making literacy and numeracy skills compulsory at higher levels, boosting science and mathematics education in schools and inspiring kids by showing them the workplaces and jobs available right here in New Zealand will greatly contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of our country’s future.

What is most important to realise is that because IQ research has shown that we all have the same intelligence potential regardless of genetics, we should all be given the same opportunities to learn. There is no reason to be seeing the IQ gap that we do. We don’t need to leave anyone behind and by recognising the social factors that separate us, we can begin to take the breaks off our underachieving groups and see a New Zealand that is richer and smarter than ever before.

This is the first in a series of guest posts from Eureka Symposium winners.


2 Responses to “The Flynn Effect and closing the IQ gap”

  • …IQ research has shown that we all have the same intelligence potential regardless of genetics…

    So genes have no effect on intelligence ? I find that extremely hard to believe.

  • Hi Brent,
    When I said “we all have the same intelligence potential” I am referring to the idea that ethnical genes do not influence our intelligence. Attempts to link Intelligence to culturally unique genes have all come up short. So we all have the same intelligence potential regardless of our ethnic group; social and economic reasons are why we see the IQ gap between ethnicities.