Are we getting smarter?

18 December 2006

Almost 150 people from across the globe gathered to hear Professor James Flynn’s theories of intelligence and how massive IQ gains from one generation to another – otherwise know as “the Flynn effect” – at a seminar hosted by The Psychometrics Centre in Cambridge on 15 December.

Titled 'Has intelligence been rising?', the seminar examined the implications of whether people today truly are substantially more intelligent than their parents and grandparents, or whether IQ tests should respond to the changing nature of human cognitive development in response to the technological revolution.

The UK's only Professor of Psychometrics John Rust, Director of The Psychometrics Centre, said: "Recent debates on standards in education and about skills shortages in industry have highlighted the issue of 'intelligence': what it means and what role it plays in individual and national development. By hosting an event such as this we are able to perhaps acknowledge some of those questions.

The implications of his findings have been widespread; one consequence being that talk about individual differences in ability is again respectable and no longer marginalises people on the basis of their race. Given that the assessment of ability forms such an important part of psychometrics, not only in education but also in recruitment, it enables psychometricians to focus on what they do well - the creation of reliability and valid instruments of assessment."

James R. Flynn is Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago. He is a New Zealander with an international reputation as a researcher, philosopher and author. As a psychologist, he is best known for the year-on-year rise in IQ test scores he first commented upon in 1981.