The Flynn effect vs. population aging

by on March 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm in Data Source, Education, Science | Permalink

Here is some good news for you all on Easter Sunday, good news until 2042 that is:

Although lifespan changes in cognitive performance and Flynn effects have both been well documented, there has been little scientific focus to date on the net effect of these forces on cognition at the population level. Two major questions moving beyond this finding guided this study: (1) Does the Flynn effect indeed continue in the 2000s for older adults in a UK dataset (considering immediate recall, delayed recall, and verbal fluency)? (2) What are the net effects of population aging and cohort replacement on average cognitive level in the population for the abilities under consideration?

First, in line with the Flynn effect, we demonstrated continued cognitive improvements among successive cohorts of older adults. Second, projections based on different scenarios for cognitive cohort changes as well as demographic trends show that if the Flynn effect observed in recent years continues, it would offset the corresponding age-related cognitive decline for the cognitive abilities studied. In fact, if observed cohort effects should continue, our projections show improvements in cognitive functioning on a population level until 2042—in spite of population aging.

That is from Vegard Skirbekk, Marcin Stonawski, Eric Bonsang, and Ursula M. Staudinger, and one gated link is here.  Do any of you know of an ungated copy?

For the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.

Steve Sailer March 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Here’s my review of Flynn’s 2007 book, “What Is Intelligence,” which offers a theory of the Flynn Effect resulting in part from increased cognitive stimulation. Both Dr. Flynn and Mrs. Flynn wrote to say they liked it:

http://www.vdare.com/articles/flynn-flips-iq-tests-do-matter

Mark Thorson March 31, 2013 at 9:02 pm

It’s easy to blame the changing environment for the Flynn effect, and that might well be true. I’m reminded of the diagnostic category “hysteria” that was applied in standard medical practice in the second half of the 19th century. Today, we’d divide that category into depression, somatization, idiopathic environmental intolerance, etc. We still don’t know what causes it, but in the 19th century eminent authorities blamed it on the telephone. They thought the stress of having a device that could ring at any moment and demand immediate attention was causing the rise in hysteria.

Even more remarkable, they had a treatment for it. If you were sufficiently wealthy and were attended by the best physicians, you’d get the Weir-Mitchell treatment. This consisted of constant bed rest, a very bland diet, deep organ massage to counteract the bad effects of bed rest on bowel movement, and isolation from friends, family, newspapers, mail, telegrams, and of course the telephone. Today, we would call that a sensory deprivation regime. Apparently, it worked, however this therapy fell out of use before modern evaluation by clinical trials was developed. I think this treatment should be revived and rigorously tested on the people today who most closely fit the definition of hysteria — e.g. patients with idiopathic environmental intolerance. This may be their cure.

Nancy Lebovitz April 1, 2013 at 10:52 am

The Yellow Wallpaper– consider the possibility that your experiment might be very bad for people.

Mark Thorson April 1, 2013 at 11:17 am

She probably had depression. There are now good treatments for depression, so it wouldn’t make sense to use the Weir-Mitchell treatment in a case like hers.

Also, the treatment she described is not the real Weir-Mitchell treatment. If the treatment had been properly applied, her husband would not have been involved, but she describes him as the perpetrator of this alleged treatment. During the real Weir-Mitchell treatment, you don’t see any your family, friends, or other familiar people.

dearieme March 31, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Mr Sailer, you overlook the importance of Morphic Resonance.

JWatts April 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

“Morphic Resonance – In fiction, when people turn into things, often times, the things will… look like themselves. Characters will often retain specific traits between physical forms. In some cases, this is as easy as hair and eye color, which makes sense to a degree. … Named after a not-so-popular hypothesis by biologist Rupert Sheldrake, in which the forms of organisms are imprinted upon ‘morphic fields’, which in turn influence the forms of subsequent organisms (at least, before the term was hijacked by science fiction authors to name this trope’s concept).”

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MorphicResonance

Kas Thomas April 1, 2013 at 9:45 am

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