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How IQ Scores in America Have Dropped, Reasons and Effects

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By Augustine Mbam - - 5 Mins Read

A new study by Northwestern University has shown that a drop in some level of intelligence, known as the reverse Flynn effect, has been rampant in recent years. This new study is a reverse of what was happening in the 1990s. As of the 1990s, the three key intelligence testing categories showed an uptrend. But that has since declined in recent years. The level of intelligence that people are currently showing in verbal reasoning, matrix reasoning, and letter and number series have all decreased compared to the numbers recorded in the 1990s. 

This study showed that the American IQ level has drastically reduced over a decade. Currently, it has not shown any sign of stopping, although the level of spatial reasoning has gone a little. This study was conducted between 2006 and 2018 by Northwestern University researchers. From their result, they concluded that three out of the four "cognitive domains" have been going down spontaneously for a long time. It should be noted that this is the first time researchers are seeing a consistent negative trend in the three main "cognitive domains." It also made them conclude that Americans might be going through a "reverse Flynn effect."

Why are IQ Tests Showing Negative Trends? 

According to Northwestern University researchers, it could result from the reverse Flynn effect. This is the best conclusion that they come up with, although they admit that they still need to dig up more in the case. 

The reverse Flynn effect came about after James Flynn conducted a study in 1984 it showed that intelligence test scores had steadily increased since the early 1930s. That rise was known as the Flynn effect. But since the intelligence level has decreased considerably, it is now called the reverse Flynn effect. While speaking about the situation, Elizabeth Dworak, a research assistant professor at Northwestern University, said they still need to conduct more research on the study.

An illustration of current human thoughts

"There’s a debate about what’s causing it, but not every domain is going down; one of them is going up. If all the scores were going in the same direction, you could make a nice little narrative about it, but that’s not the case. We need to do more to dig into it," Elizabeth Dworak said. 

She also noted that the drop in IQ scores does not necessarily mean that Americans are getting less intelligent." It doesn’t mean their mental ability is lower or higher; it’s just a difference in scores that are favoring older or newer samples. It could just be that they’re getting worse at taking tests or specifically worse at taking these kinds of tests," she added. 

Another contributing factor that may have been to the reverse Flynn effect is the change in societal values. Elizabeth Dworak confirmed this, saying that the shift in societal beliefs might contribute to the decrease in IQ tests."If you’re thinking about what society cares about and what it’s emphasizing and reinforcing every day. There’s a possibility of that being reflected in performance on an ability test," Dworak said. Other factors that seem to be contributing to the reverse Flynn effect are the worsening of school systems, social media, and climate and nutritional changes.