testimony would I believe that the
bears there are white.”
They were addicted to the concrete
world, not the world of hypotheticals.
And that of course has a big impact on
a whole range of tests. If you look at
Raven’s, where the gains have been so
huge, the test consists of all hypothetical
questions about symbols that are well
removed from concrete reality.
Luria also asked his subjects about
classification, such as, “What do dogs
and rabbits have in common?” In 1900,
a person would say, “You use dogs to
hunt rabbits.” Today you say, “They’re
both mammals.” And that gets the
In the past, people’s minds were
utilitarian. They weren’t interested in
hypotheticals or in classifying things
together. But today people have “donned
scientific spectacles,” they have scientific
habits of mind.
Finally, there’s the wealth of visual
images in the modern world. I think
that is responsible for improvements
in mapping skills and improvements in
looking at three-dimensional figures and
how they rotate.
University of Otago
Do these rising IQ scores actually
mean that people are getting
That depends what you mean by smarter.
It really breaks down into four questions:
Do we have better genetically
engineered brains than we did in
1900? Of course not. Genes don’t
select like that in four generations. So,
if by “intelligence” you mean a brain
engineered to accomplish greater things,
then we’ve made no progress at all.
But if you mean: Is our ability to
attack a wider range of conceptual
problems improved? Then yes, we have
“In the past, people’s minds were utilitarian,” says Dr. James Flynn. “They weren’t
interested in hypotheticals or in classifying things together. But today people have
‘donned scientific spectacles,’ they have scientific habits of mind.”
gained in intelligence. The average
person can do creative work today that
they couldn’t do in 1900.
If you mean, on the other hand,
something like: Were people just as
adapted to their circumstances in 1900
as they are today? Well, of course they
were. They were able to do factory work,
to hunt. They could cope with the world
as it existed then. They had an average
IQ of 70, but they weren’t all mentally
retarded. So in that respect there’s been
no gain in intelligence.
Do you expect these gains
to continue through the 21st
Who knows? In 1900, 25 percent of