Ben Steigmann writes:
“When you analyze IQ gains over time, you often find that they do not constitute enhancement of these latent traits — they do not seem to be general intelligence gains, or quantitative factor gains, or verbal factor gains (Wicherts et al, in press). In the language of factor analysis, this means that IQ gains over time tend to display ‘measurement artifacts or cultural bias’. For a second time, we are driven to the conclusion that massive IQ gains are not intelligence gains or, indeed, any kind of significant cognitive gains.” – James R. Flynn
Yes, but he doesn’t really say that.
Flynn gains show major gains in abstract thinking. That is, humans have been getting better and better at abstract thinking and especially abstract verbal thinking via Flynn gains. The reason for this in that we engage in much more scientific thinking than we used to. Humans keep getting more and more scientific minded with each generation and this shows up on tests. A more scientific minded person is a more intelligent person than a less scientific person.
Flynn gains show major gains in the ability to solve new problems that we have never been confronted with before. We are better at problem solving ability due to Flynn gains. This may be due to the increased complexity of modern society.
Flynn gains show massive gains in visuospatial skills, particularly visuospatial analysis. We are simply more intelligent with regard to visuospatial analysis than we were before, possibly due to all of the gadgets that we use and the complex nature of modern society.
Let us go test by test to show what tests the Flynn gains are on.
Digit Span: This tests working memory. According to the results of this test, we have better working memory due to Flynn gains.
Coding: This is a test of raw processing speed. According to the results of this test, our brains are better at raw processing speed (they work faster than before) due to Flynn gains.
Block Design, Perceptual Reasoning, Picture Completion, Comprehension, and Similarities: The gains on Similarities are particularly striking. These are tests of verbal skills, primarily verbal analytical skills. According to the results of these tests, we are better at verbal analysis than due to Flynn gains. This, particularly the Similarities gains, may be due to increased scientific thinking in day to day life. People are thinking much more scientifically than they used to be, hence they are more intelligent than they were before.
Picture Arrangement: This tests logical reasoning. According to the results of this test, we are better at pure logical thinking due to Flynn gains. Once again, I think the fact that we think more scientifically is the reason for this. Scientific thinking is based on logic and a more scientifically oriented person is more logical than a less scientific person.
Object Assembly: This is a test of visual analysis, synthesis and construction. According to the results of this test, we are better at visual thinking due to Flynn gains. We can analyze things visually better, we can synthesize visual input better with other visual input, and we can build and construct things visually better than before. These gains may be due to all of the tech gadgets that we increasingly use which are probably making us smarter in visual matters.
Digit Symbol: This is a test of raw processing speed like Coding above. It also tests visuomotor coordination. So now we have two tests that show that our brains are actually working faster due to Flynn gains. We are also better at visuomotor coordination due to Flynn gains. This seems like exactly the type of skill that would improve with all the computer, video game, TV remote control, cellphone, and smartphone use going on. All of those things would seem to require visuomotor coordination.
Block Design: This is a test of visuospatial motor skills somewhat similar to Digit Symbol above. This skill is excellent for those going into fields such as engineering and physics. This test is one of the best measures of visuospatial ability ever designed. People who excel at math and science due very well on this test. According to the results of this test, we are better at visuospatial motor skills of the type used in math and science fields due to Flynn gains.
Society is becoming increasingly scientific and also increasingly mathematical. Probably 50 years ago, most people did not need much in the way of math skills. Furthermore, mathematics teaching has dramatically improved in grade school over the last century. This is evidence that better mathematics teaching in elementary school causes actual growth in certain areas of the frontal lobe of the brain. Better math teaching actually gives you a better brain!
Similarities: This test shows perhaps the largest Flynn rise of them all. Similarities tests verbal comprehension, visual abstract processing and problem solving, particularly for brand new problems that the person has never encountered before (problem solving on the fly). According to the results of this test, we are better at comprehending verbal input, the processing of visual abstract thinking (also shown in other gains) and problem solving as a result of Flynn gains.
The suggestion is that the increased use of scientific thinking is possibly responsible for the huge gains on this test. Note that we are now better at problem solving on the fly for novel problems due to Flynn gains. This is why the “hollow gains” nonsense bothers me so much. Don’t you think that an improved ability to solve novel problems on the fly would come in handy at work and in life in general?
Comprehension: This is a test of the ability to deal with abstract social conventions, rules and expressions. I believe this is the test where they give you a saying and ask you to interpret it, like “People in glass houses should not throw stones.” According to the results of this test, we are better at figuring out abstract social conventions, rules and expressions in human society due to Flynn gains. Why we would become better at this is unknown, but the interpretation of sayings is probably due to improved logical and scientific thinking.
Picture Completion: This is a test of the ability to quickly perceive visual details. According to the results of this test, we can now see details in visual objects and scenes better as a result of Flynn gains. I would think that a society of people who spend so much time watching TV, on the Internet, at computers, playing videogames and using cellphones and smartphones would get better at quickly perceiving visual details in objects which you need to do to use any of these gadgets properly.
Picture Arrangement: This is a test of the ability to reason and the ability to understand the precursors and consequences of acts. According to the results of this test, we now have improved reasoning abilities and can understand the cause and effect relationship of things in life better as a result of Flynn gains. When I think “reasoning” and “cause and effect,” the first thing that comes to mind is scientific thinking. This once again may be a result of improved scientific thinking.
However, we have not improved at all on a number of tests, in particular on Vocabulary, Arithmetic and General Knowledge. That is, we know no more words, are no better at math and have no better general knowledge than people earlier in the last century. We have made no gains at all in these areas. The fact that we made no gains here, along with the fact that while we improved in one test of a battery but maybe did not improve in two others shows you the somewhat haphazard nature of the gains. It is true that we have not gained on “g” or general intelligence factor, but on the other hand, we are much more intelligent in certain areas and ways than we were before.
The phrase “hollow gains” is meaningless nonsense invented by Jensen to preserve his hard hereditarian beliefs.