Monday 14 October 2013

All you ever wanted to know about intelligence (but were too bright to ask) Part 4 final


Finally, Deary goes on to discuss the “so-named Flynn effect, whereby the absolute scores on intelligence tests have been rising since testing started in the early-to-mid
20th century. The extent of the rise, its geographical distribution in the world, and especially its causes are all still being studied. Some hypothesise that better nutrition might explain some of the increase, and others put it down to society’s making more accessible and emphasizing the skills tested by intelligence tests.”

For a look at this issue, see “The Flynn Effect Re-evaluated” already in press at Intelligence, but to be collected together in a single special issue by December:

“On the biological side there is research showing that breast feeding is associated with a sizeable advantage in intelligence later in childhood. However, there is also some evidence that this is explained by the higher intelligence scores of the mothers
who tend to breastfeed. “ I think we have covered that one, for the time being at least.

“Adoption from a deprived to a more affluent setting is reported to be associated
with an intelligence advantage. There is still debate about the effectiveness
of intensive intervention programmes early in life, and whether any cognitive
advantages last or whether advantage accrues to social rather than cognitive
skills.” I will try to post about that sometime.

Deary ends with a plea: “Human intelligence is important; it matters in our lives.”

If you are still on speaking terms with your intelligent friend send them the 4 short posts but DO NOT ASK THEM WHETHER THEY AGREE. Leave them alone to think up their refutations. I mean, what is intelligence, really?

Here are his references:

Deary, I.J. (2012). Intelligence. Ann. Rev. Psychol. 63, 453–482.
Deary, I.J., Penke, L., and Johnson, W. (2010). The neuroscience of human intelligence differences.Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 11, 201–211 .
Hunt, E. (2011 ). Human Intelligence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Nisbett, R. E., Aronson, J., Blair, C., Dickens, W., Flynn, J., Halpern, D. F., and Turkheimer, E. (2012). Intelligence: new findings and theoretical developments. Am. Psychol. 67, 503–504.
Salthouse, T.A. (2010). Major Issues in Cognitive Ageing (Oxford: Oxford University Press).


  1. Professor Thompson,

    How should we respond to this misguided piece in this Telegraph?

    Steve Jones writes:

    Intelligence, so Michael Gove’s special adviser told us, is due to genetics. Dominic Cummings is convinced that a child’s fate lies in its DNA. He claims that as much as 70 per cent of academic performance is genetically derived – and that the quality of teaching, as a result, fades into the background.
    That statement, and many like it, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how biology works.

    For geneticists, the more we learn about DNA, the more important the environment appears.

    Read here:

  2. Thanks. I will post on this matter shortly