The Flynn Effect and "g"

Repost from the old site.
Commenters recently have been bringing up the Flynn Effect (FE) of rising IQ’s in the past 80 years. There are many paradoxes and controversies over this effect that the commenters have been sharp enough to notice and point out. One argument is that the FE is not a real intelligence rise at all, since it is not on real
g intelligence. In other words, the FE means nothing, and people are no smarter than before. The FE gains are not gains in intelligence at all, they are zero, nothing, null.
This is not correct, but the argument is very interesting. First we need to understand what the FE is and what it means. Then we need to understand what g is and what it means. The post concludes that there has indeed been an FE rise on g, but only on one component of g. Further, the post critiques the whole notion of seeing intelligence purely through the lens of g as senseless and meaningless, not to mention flat out wrong.
The subject matter is highly complex, but I tried to make it as simple as possible. My readers are a very intelligent bunch, and I think most of you should be able to follow this argument. You really need to read this slowly and take your time to try to understand what is going on here. It took me months of studying the FE before I finally started to get a handle on it.

The Flynn Effect (FE) is a secular rise in IQ over time that has been occurring throughout the West for 80 years now. All ages and ethnic groups are effected. Preliminary evidence indicates that it is also occurring in the Caribbean (Dominica), South America (Brazil) and Africa (Kenya).
An overview of the FE itself goes beyond the scope of this post.
The FE is quite complex, and many people do not seem to understand the concept properly, hence are not able to discuss it, much less debate it. However, most people of reasonable intelligence, if interested, seem to be able to grasp the basic implications of the FE.
Hereditarians, most of whom are White racists, are very upset by the FE (Talk about being opposed to human progress!) because they have a strong emotional investment in White intellectual superiority and the intellectual inferiority of Blacks, Hispanics and other groups. We know that the major hereditarian researchers on intelligence are racists because almost all of them support getting rid of all anti-discrimination laws.
The agenda is clear for both lab coat racists and White nationalists: if we can prove that Blacks, Hispanics and others are intellectually inferior to Whites, we can legalize discrimination, especially job discrimination, against them.
A particularly frightening lab coat racist endeavor is attempting to prove that Blacks are inferior employees to Whites on average. If they prove this scientifically, then they will have a logical reason to support discriminating against Blacks in employment.
Almost all of these folks are White, and most of them call themselves race realists. They spend a good deal of time screaming and yelling about why Blacks and Browns will not accept that they are intellectually inferior (Steve Sailer specializes in this). Why would anyone want to accept, or actually accept, such a thing?
Furthermore, given the nefarious agenda behind those promoting these theories that seeks to legalize discrimination against Blacks and Browns, any Black or Hispanic person who gets behind this would have to be out of their minds.
I have ritually added “Hispanic” after Black above, but in general, Hispanics are being left out of this debate. The real effort here is directed by racist Whites against Blacks, not Hispanics. It is against Blacks that these Whites seek to legalize the right to discriminate.
The Flynn Effect has been hard to argue against, but the hereditarians have tried hard. They have shown that the FE is not on g. G is a hypothesized common correlational factor that supposedly measures pure intelligence. Everything outside of g is “not real intelligence”.
However, according to one paper, the very concept of g is tendentious to say the least, and possibly nonsensical. The paper is titled G, A Statistical Myth, by an admittedly brilliant mathematician named Cosma Shalizi. I read through the whole thing but I couldn’t really make sense of it. Perhaps someone who knows math better than I do can have a go at it.

A schematic of the g, or general intelligence, factor. The ovals represent subtests on an intelligence test. G represents the totality of the areas where the purple subtests shade into the pink circle, and the degree to which they correlate (line up) with each other. G is a correlation coefficient of various tests. It measures the tendency of superior test takers (and someone who has a brain that works a bit better), if they do well on one test, do also do well on all other tests. The FE is generally not on g because some tests have risen dramatically, others moderately, and still others little or not at all.
Therefore, intelligence has not risen in a general, across-the-board kind of way. However, certain aspects of intelligence have definitely risen, and those aspects have quantifiable benefits in modern society, occupationally, academically and in other ways.

The argument of whether or not the FE gains are on g or not is very complex, about as complex as the FE itself. First of all, the FE gains have not been across the board. In general, they have focused on verbal analysis, visual analysis, visual intelligence and problem-solving. Gains have been few to none in basic things like general knowledge, mathematics, mathematical analysis, spelling and reading comprehension.
G is a hypothesized and problematic construct that is a correlational factor all of the subtests on an intelligence test. It is thought to be highly heritable and physiologically based, and this is why the hereditarians have gone nuts over it.
It measures how someone with a somewhat more neurologically efficient brain will tend to score better across an entire range of subtests than someone who with a less efficient brain.
The reason the FE is not on g is because it is limited to a subset of intelligence subtests, and gains have been small to none across another subset. Therefore, there is no g gain.
However, Raven’s Progressive Matrices has shown larger gains than any other test. Raven’s was designed to measure pure g and nothing else. Raven’s scores are not thought to be effected by environmental factors outside of pregnancy and the first few months of life, and are thought to be purely neurologically, physiologically or genetically based.
Given the pure g basis for Raven’s, the wild secular gains on it on the FE are most puzzling.
However, recently James Flynn has shown that the FE does show a .5 correlation on a factor analyzing fluid g.
There is fluid g and crystallized g.
Fluid g is thought to peak early in life. This is why things that require raw brain processing power tend to peak in young people: creativity – artists, musicians, poets, novelists, filmmakers, mathematicians, physicists – often do their best work as young people (usually as young men). Fluid g is really a measure of how well, fast or efficient your brain works.
Crystallized g is another matter altogether. Crystallized g may be seen as “what you know” as opposed to “how fast of a brain you have.” While fluid g peaks early, crystallized g often goes up throughout life, and people can still score high on crystallized g in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s.
This is what we might call “accumulated knowledge” or “wisdom”. The old person’s brain does not work as fast, but the accumulated knowledge makes up for that in that they can see connections between things easier.
The young person’s brain works very fast, but with the lack of accumulated knowledge and life experience, they are not able to put things together as well to arrive at the correct conclusion. This is why no society has ever put the 18-23 year old’s in power, no matter how zippy their brains are.
Instead, the old men have always been put in power. The accumulation of a life of learning is thought to lead to a wisdom that will manifest itself as the ability to make “wise”, correct and proper decisions.
The concepts of crystallized and fluid g are complicated, but hopefully that explanation helped you understand it better.
The FE is on fluid g, not crystallized g. Visual intelligence and analysis, problem solving, verbal analysis analytical thinking in general, on intelligence tests, is in the realm of fluid g. Those are those little puzzles that ask you to decide which figure goes next in the series.
On intelligence tests, crystallized g measures accumulated knowledge and the degree to which one has learned basic tasks of modern life. The FE gains on mathematics, math analysis, reading comprehension, vocabulary and general knowledge are small to nil, and all of these tests measure crystallized g. To sum, these are the sorts of things you learn in school.
This is why, despite skyrocketing IQ’s, we cannot read a book, add and subtract, or do calculus any faster than our grandparents. We also do not know any more than they did, and we know no more words than they did.
This is obvious in the many reports on “idiocratic” state of high school seniors, college students or college grads. And this is how a puzzle is solved – how IQ’s are surely rising at the same time as idiocracy is.
From Flynn’s chapter summary:

IQ gains over time were calculated for each WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) subtest and the subtests ranked by size of gain. Verbal Similarities led at 20 points per generation – larger than gains on Raven’s Progressive Matrices.
Similarities measures on-the-spot problem-solving (something akin to fluid g); verbal subtests that do not measure this show low rate of gain. WISC subtests were also ranked by their correlations with Raven’s, the latter being used as a marker for fluid g. The r between the two hierarchies was calculated to approximate a correlation between IQ gains and fluid g .
The result of 0.50 contrasts with the negative correlation between IQ gains and the g generated by factor analyzing the WISC battery itself, which is generally viewed as predominately a crystallized g.
In sum, it appears that human groups can make massive fluid g gains in a period too short to accommodate radical change in the speed and efficiency of neural processes. Moreover, once gains in intelligent behavior over historical time are seen to be independent of brain physiology, does g really provide a criterion for assessing their significance?
Finally, not only a measure of fluid g (which is highly heritable) but also inbreeding depression are shown to be correlated with IQ gains – gains overwhelmingly environmental in origin. Therefore, correlations between such genetically influenced factors and the size of the black/white IQ gap do not show that the gap has a genetic component.

The Similarities test has risen faster than any other test. It measures analytical thinking and is thought to be a good measure of raw fluid g. The final paragraph is interesting. The Black-White IQ gap is correlated with something called inbreeding depression score, a purely heritable measure. Hereditarians use this to say that the B-W IQ gap is genetic.
But Flynn shows here that the FE (a purely environmental gain) also correlates with inbreeding depression, a purely hereditarian score. Flynn uses this to say that the B-W IQ gap is not necessarily completely genetic.
Flynn notes above that the FE cannot possibly be caused by brains that actually work better physiologically than the brains of our grandparents. Genetics doesn’t work that fast.
Therefore, what does the FE measure? Flynn says it measures “intelligent behavior.” So our brains don’t work any better than our grandparents’ brains, but we show improved “intelligent behavior” over them.
Therefore, another mystery is solved, how massive IQ gains can occur without concomitant improvement in the physiology of our brains.
Since hereditarians use g as a measure of physiological efficiency of our brains, Flynn calls this into question by noting that g gains can occur too fast to be accommodated for by physiologically improved brains. Therefore, Flynn suggests chucking g as a measure of pure brain physiological efficiency.
Therefore, the White nationalist and hereditarian argument that the FE is not on g has been proven wrong.


Flynn, James R. 2000. IQ Gains, WISC Subtests and Fluid g: g Theory and the Relevance of Spearman’s Hypothesis to Race, Chapter 12 in Bock, Gregory R., Goode, Jamie A., Webb, Kate. Novartis Foundation Symposium 233 – The Nature of Intelligence, pp. 202-227. Novartis Foundation. Published online.
Please follow and like us:
Tweet 20

39 thoughts on “The Flynn Effect and "g"”

  1. The Flynn effect is not really decisive as to the legitimacy of g, or of its heritability.
    There are a number of points that can be made, but here’s just one obvious one.
    Consider the following analogy. Suppose sprinting speed is, other things being equal, mainly based on, say, the proportion of fast-muscle twitch fibers in his legs. Suppose that that proportion is nearly entirely genetic in origin.
    Now it may be that, due to far more effective training, virtually every world class sprinter of today is faster than the fastest sprinter of a century ago.
    Would we say that the relative speed of today’s sprinters cannot be determined primarily by the proportion of fast muscle twitch fibers in their legs, or that there can be no genetic basis for the differential performances of today’s sprinters?
    I think the answer is no. In fact, the sprints held today may very well primarily measure what are basically genetic differences in different proportions of fast muscle twitch fibers. The fundamental effect of the more sophisticated training is to lift the performance of all sprinters, but not to remove the genetic differences between them.
    It may very well be thus with the Flynn effect. Yes, today individuals may do much better than their grandparents on items such as verbal similarities. But that may be because we all have much more effective training in the skill of classification which is at the root of good performance on the similarities items. We may even reasonably say that on this skill we are “smarter” than our grandparents. But it may equally well be that in terms of our more basic intellectual processing power, we are in no way different — we have simply managed to use that power more effectively in the narrow region of classification.

    1. That’s a brilliant comment, biorealist, and I’m glad you figured out this essay so quickly.
      Needless to say, I agree with much of what you are saying.
      Though not all.
      We know very well that the brain continues to grow in early childhood, in particular the frontal lobe. It stands to reason that certain types of enhanced environment could grow that frontal lobe better than a more impoverished environment, correct?
      I will be posting more on this shortly.

  2. “Unable to compete with the white man, save by drawing the white man to his own level, the Negro will become an outcast in America, as the inferior tribes are in India. That the United States will reach a status of races analogous to that of India is a belief which has been expressed by more than one American writer. If the white race retains race purity, economic competition will compel the Negro to prey upon the white race for the necessities of life.

    The conditions inhering in the Ideal Negro State will serve to make the Negro a better Negro. There is no other way to give him a chance in the world at present. He is not fitted for cultural competition with the more creative Caucasian, his presence among the peoples of that race has invariably resulted in amalgamation of his race with the Caucasian, leaving a mongrel offspring unfitted to carry on the culture they received from their white ancestors. There has been no exception to long continued race contact ending in race amalgamation. We in America are still white, but countless centuries are before us. It is civilization’s imperative that the Negro be repatriated. It will be to the Negro’s advantage to be aided by the white man in establishing his new home on a sure foundation. If the white man of America owes a debt to the Negro, he cannot repay it so well as by empowering the Negro to work out his own salvation in keeping with the instincts and capacities with which the Creator has endowed him.”

  3. Dear Mr Lindsay, you really lay your prejudices bare here. On the one hand your comments policy insists that ad hominem comments will not be tolerated (and be classed as ‘offensive’). On the other hand this post of yours indulges in the most outrageous of routine ad hominem slurs, cheaply dismissing all those you disagree with as being racist bigots.
    You go on and on about their being obsessed with white superiority, and yet Rushton, Jensen, Lynn, and all these other “racists” all recognise that whites (caucasians) score quite a number of IQ points below orientals such as Chinese and Japanese (mongoloids).
    I’m not sure it’s worth my putting any more words following on from here, unless and until you recognise the huge mote in your eye first. Cheers.
    PS–The concept advanced by biorealist I consider to already confirmed by my own studies. My forthcoming theory update finds that the Flynn effect was due to atmospheric mercury, and thus implies nothing about heritability.

    1. Unfortunately all of those you listed are racists. Almost all of the hereditarians are. All of those you listed want to get rid of all anti-discrimination laws, and that’s racist right there. Almost all biorealists are racists, nowadays. That’s just how it works.

    2. Dear Robert, you just carry on regardless with yet more of your own violation of your own ad hom rule there. And furthermore you repeat the favourite fallacy of those who put left first and truth last if anywhere. Your notion of anti-discrimination is in reality the biggest racism –racial discrimination– of all. But your biases prevent you from ever understanding that so I guess I was correct in reckoning it to be a waste of time writing to you. Have you never heard black persons express their disgust at all the “anti-discrimination” policies they are daily demeaned by? And, let’s be frank, you yourself have never been denied a job or access to success by being on the wrong side of such “positive” discrimination have you. What ‘better’ way to create unneeded resentment between race-preoccupied groups can there be? Oh sorrry, I forgot that only yourself is allowed to write ad homs in this temple of dual-standards here!
      Cheers anyway.

    3. Arthur Jensen and Chris Brand (whose book was depublished and himself sacked for being honest about false taboos) have long both indicated in publications their support for treating individuals of all races as individuals without discrimination as to race. But for those who wouldn’t recognise non-racism if it were permanently riveted onto their proverbial noses, that of course has to be proof of vile racist bigotry instead?

    4. Arthur Jensen is on record for getting rid of all anti-discrimination laws in the US, especially regarding employment.
      I know nothing of Chris Brand, but he’s an unsavory character.
      The problem with biorealism is that is simply the truth. So why are all biorealists right-wingers? I’m not sure. Since it’s the truth, really, everyone ought to believe in it.
      It’s well known in the US that all or almost all prominent hereditarians on race and IQ support getting rid of all US civil rights laws. Not sure about your country.
      This blog is intended, in part, to support Liberal Race Realism. Among other things, we reject the Right and support anti-discrimination laws, yet we are biorealists. It’s a lonely club here, but you’re welcome to join our movement.

      1. “Since it’s the truth, really, everyone ought to believe in it.”
        Do you really believe that sentence you wrote there, or are you just taking your own piss?
        “So why are all biorealists right-wingers?”
        They aren’t. I’m one who’s not. But realism does indeed tend to go with rightism in respect of psychological science. The delusions of right-wingers lie more in the realms of supposedly wonderful social systems being based on greed and capital accumulation. In my view both left and right extremes are equally blinkered fools.

    5. Thanks for your reply Robert, but what you consider to be anti-discrimination all too often amounts to the opposite. Consider for instance that in the UK there is *encouraged* to exist lots of organisations specially for minorities such as the black police federation, black housing coops etc. And yet anyone starting a white police federation would be hauled up as a criminal instead of getting taxpayer handouts. Likewise white people can find their whole career instantly ended for just saying one “wrong” word (such as ikap in reverse, which means person from the land of the pure (Muslims) by the way) in whatever context, whereas there have never been any words that non-whites need worry about using. How about if Michael Moore had titled his book “Stupid Black Women” instead? Would all the “anti-racists” be enthusing and promoting it then? But, oh, that isn’t really discrimination is it?

      1. Robin, would not Your efforts be better served by actually /attempting/ to refute the claims Robert makes in His post? Otherwise, I do not see how You are not doing any more than simply ‘trolling’ and attempting to instigate a ‘flame war’.

        1. I’m sorry to see that I’ve clearly come to the wrong place here. Namely a place that is preoccupied with cheap name-calling insinuations such as “racist” and “troll”. Goodbye and good riddance. There are many other web-places more deserving of a person’s time. I could mention that I myself am a bio-realist who is certainly not a right winger (indeed often accused of being a left-winger) but then I’m merely writing to a wall of closed minds here anyway so so what.

        2. Oops sorry, you managed to instigate myself into a flame war there! (albeit probably not intentionally). Not my best ever comment. I think you’ll find that there is enough refutation in my replies, along with the fact that some things do not so much require refutation as merely showing to be off the point anyway, or not the soundest way of construing the data.

        3. (Since My browser does not seem to give Me a reply link to Robin’s comments below, I shall reply here.)
          Robin, I never said You were a Racist or a Troll. I said, “[absent actual attempts to refute the /data/ Robert makes in His post] I do not see how You are not doing any more than simply ‘trolling’ and attempting to instigate a ‘flame war’.” Giving You the benefit of the doubt, I presume You are simply misunderstand the relationship between Individuals and Their actions. For example, I can cook and not be a Chef; I can play sports and not be an Athlete. Similarly, You can be ‘trolling’ and not be a Troll.
          In regards to Your second comment below, no, I see no sufficient amount of refutation in Your posts but, instead, a series of statements equivalent to “nuh-uh”, which adds nothing to the discussion except noise.

        4. Ah, I see the browser did place My reply in the correct location. In that case, My prior references to ‘below’ should be read as ‘above’.

  4. And I have no need of lectures about discrimination myself as I have for decades been at the receiving end of the harshest of discrimination from the whole community of status-obsessed academic “superiors” who write me off as worthless trash on account of my chronic mental disabilities preventing me from passing exams. Cheers.

  5. “Likewise white people can find their whole career instantly ended for just saying one “wrong” word (such as ikap in reverse, which means person from the land of the pure (Muslims) by the way)”
    The word Paki is equivalent to nigger in the UK, though.
    What is your argument? That everyone should be equally obnoxious… or no one should?

    1. Well, surely it would be best if no-one were obnoxious. But quite how does the alleged obnoxiousness of a word compare with the obnoxiousness of having your life-encompassing career destroyed for speaking a word once? Can you possibly just about see the *vast* imbalance there? And quite who decrees that that p word is equivalent to that n word or that either are obnoxious anyway. Supposedly it’s ok for blacks to use that n word. The p word is simply the natural convenient abbreviation deriving from the name of the country, Pakistan, which itself is extremely obnoxious in being the Urdu word meaning “land of the nice pure people [unlike those dirty non-Muslim scum]” (as per numerous quran verses).
      All this unnecessary obnoxiousness is generated by left-bigots who insist on putting the worst possible
      interpretations on meanings and intentions,
      too childish to have the maturity to embrace the understanding of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Oh, but perhaps the various ‘minorities’ are indeed such wimps? Or have to be treated as such? But again quite likely you lack the objectivity to appreciate the imbalances, harshly dual standards, prejudiced unfairnesses indicated above. (PS: I see from your picture above that you’re a mutant cockroach so not really qualified to speak as a proper human anyway;~]]!)

    2. Calling a black person an n.. or a Pakistani a p.. amounts to no more than saying what they obviously are anyway. It’s not as if the person is going around saying that this ir that blacks is a liar or Pakistani a pedophile. By contrast, calling “racist” those who challenge the politically-correct account of individual differences research amounts to slanderous accusation that they are immoral criminals (while giving a way of avoiding proper debate of their evidence). But again I doubt you have the neutrality required to appreciate the bigotry inherent in the p-c position. Cheers.

  6. The Flynn effect is only relevant with regards to fluid intelligence, which a plethora of evidence suggests, is highly permeable (especially during adolescents). The rise in fluid intelligence is attributable to changes in culture, not genetics. Multiple lines of evidence , have helped to establish the fact that individual scores between fluid and crystallized measures, can vary greatly. This includes more recent evidence,involving gf/gc discrepancies of HFA/Aspergers subjects, Short term-Working memory training and increases in fluid intelligence, and the well known discrepancy in subjects with mental disorders. Indeed, the myth of gc=gf, has never been more clear.

  7. “Since hereditarians use g as a measure of physiological efficiency of our brains, Flynn calls this into question by noting that g gains can occur too fast to be accommodated for by physiologically improved brains.”
    Two twins could have the same genetic potential for brain processing but one develops a more efficient brain because of a better upbringing and better nutrition. Perhaps one stays in a third world slum and the other is adopted by Angelina Jolie. Therefore, we could have physiologically better brains than our grandparents, not due to evolution but due to better environmental conditions, no?

  8. In some countries Flynn Effect may be related to iodine intake. Iodine increases iq by 13,5 to 15 points. For example in Turkey iodised salt usage only began in 1998 and James R. Flynn in his book (Are We Getting Smarter?) says that avg iq of 5th graders in Turkey was 97-99 in 2010. That’s way higher than previous generations and if true it may be related to iodine.

  9. A young brain has better short term memory, not sure if they can learn better though. Nonetheless, I’m guessing the 18 year olds I attend college with have faster processing speeds. Let’s say you had the young and old both take a math test. Assuming they did equal amounts of study, could they finish the test at the same time?

      1. Nooo fluid ability is highest at age 23 when we have the most brain cells we will ever have. We also have the fastest reaction times at that age. Fluid G is just pure neurological efficiency, sheer brain speed. Philosophy involves crystallized G much more and I am quite certain that most sciences rely a lot on crystallized G. Crystallized G does not peak until ~40-50 and for some it keeps rising even after that into the 60’s. Otherwise known as accumulated knowledge or even wisdom.

  10. The whole IQ thing is nonsense. I went to a mostly white high school. There were many slower students in general level classes. We can also say these students were bound for vocational careers, as opposed to college. However, isn’t that the same destiny that blacks and Latinos are bound for? So what is all this talk of white superiority?

    1. What do you mean IQ is nonsense? I am not following you here. Your liberalism is not going to go over well on this blog. We definitely believe in IQ here. I will not ban you for your position, but it is going to get awfully lonely.

    2. I’m not advocating white superiority but the point is average differences. Look at the bell curve for race and IQ. Lots of overlap, which explains how lots of whites and blacks are headed for the same destiny, whether it be a blue collar job or a Ivy league professorship.

    3. Or to put it differently, a higher % of black Americans than white Americans have below 90 and below 80 IQs. So probably a higher % will be headed for those unskilled jobs.

  11. If blacks have such a low IQ, then how come they are so gifted at music? Nearly all American popular music has African roots.

    1. The US Black IQ may be 87. I suppose that is low compared to groups like Whites and Asians, and it is lower than US Hispanics. The lower Black IQ is simply a fact of science. It is beyond debate.
      IQ does not measure creativity.

  12. Hey Robert or others, I was wondering what geneticists meant by “regressing to the mean.” I’m not really understanding that concept well. Thank you

    1. Ok my Mom has an IQ of 150. My Dad had an IQ of 129. They had 4 kids. The average IQ of US Whites is 100. The tendency of regression to the mean would mean that we four children would tend to have IQ’s plunging more down towards that 100 number than remaining up there around 130-150. As it turned out, all of us have IQ’s of 140+. My IQ is 147. I do not know the exact IQ’s of my other siblings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)