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The Flynn Effect, or Your Grandparents were Retarded!
This struck me the other day as one of those things that everybody should know about, but very few actually do.
Ever since IQs started being measured, the average IQ (as measured by absolute performance in the tests) has increased by roughly 0.3 points per year, among almost all groups and at almost all times.
If you follow the trend backwards, it implies that in 1900 the average citizen was mentally retarded by our current standards (something which is pretty much impossible to take seriously).
Now, this kicks off a whole bunch of interesting discussions:
Is intelligence meaningfully measurable by a single factor, g?
IQ tests are meant to be decent tests of g, general intelligence; but it seems increasingly clear that this cannot quite be literally true. Is this a useful/meaningful concept?
IQ, while being strongly affected by genes according to twin studies, is also massively effected by the environment
And what an effect! Given that IQ is negatively correlated with the number of children one has (roughly true over most of the last century), one would expect a strong genetic effect on IQ to result in a dysgenic lowering of IQ over the last century. Instead, we observe the reverse. What's going on?
The possibilities of epigenetics
The effects of DNA methylation and other epigenetic effects on inheritance are becoming increasingly clear and it is obvious that some of them are incredibly powerful. Given that epigenetic effects are often the result of environmental effects on the parent, but are inherited by children, does this mean we need to revise our assessments of twin studies given that there would be very little epigenetic variance between the two?