An IQ expert I know once suggested that the Flynn effect is such a difficult puzzle that perhaps it will not be solved unless a true Genius like Sir Francis Galton emerges. Well I once corresponded with someone who was probably even smarter than Galton. I estimate this person was one of the 10 smartest people in the United States. Of course that’s an extremely hard thing to confirm but there was just copious evidence that this man was ridiculously intelligent. For starters, he had scored high enough on Ron Hoeflin’s ultra difficult IQ tests to qualify for the Prometheus society. He also had probably the fastest age adjusted Rubik’s Cube solving speed in the entire world. He had a superhuman capacity to solve number sequences to the point that no one on our internet message board could even invent a number sequence he couldn’t solve, and not just ones related to math, but any kind of pattern you could set to numbers.
At one point a major psychometric expert doing academic research showed up on the internet message board with an IQ test that had such a high ceiling, that the average person would score zero, and just getting around 50% right put your IQ in the super stratosphere. Almost immediately, the Promethean responded to the psychometric expert by saying “I HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” He then added another comment saying “I don’t think your test is within FIFTY POINTS of the correct IQ. Or maybe the standard error is one hundred points!“
The Promethean was very concerned about preserving his stratospheric intellect as he got older. He decided at a very young age to never drink a drop of alcohol because he feared it would damage his brain. When he heard that there were chronometric complex reaction time video games that could supposedly make you smarter, he became obsessed with them. At first he scored mediocre, which surprised him given his superhuman intelligence, but after practicing the games hundreds and hundreds of times, his score was in the stratosphere. He believed that the game had made him even smarter than he already was. Soon data emerged on other people who practiced the games over and over again, and while a lot of people started with better scores than he started with, virtually no one could reach his maximum score, which was estimated to be above the one in 30 million level (IQ 180+). It was possible to assign these chronometric scores deviation IQ’s because the maximum score one could obtain correlated highly with IQ.
One of my best friends and I even started playing the game. I was quite thrilled to achieve an exceptional score of Brain Master +1, but being too young and immature to understand the value of honesty, integrity, and truth, I lied to the Promethean and claimed I made it to Brain Master +10! I though I was being clever, but I would later read that falsification is a sign of low IQ and I’m proud to report that I’m now one of the most honest people I know. The Promethean probably knew I lied, but was too intelligent to call me out; instead he just retreated to live among his own kind in the Prometheus society, as these beings so often do.
What bothered me was that my friend scored only a few levels lower than me, which stunned me because when we first became friend at around age 13, I had thought he was mentally disabled. In fact that was the reason I became his friend in the first place; I was fascinated by IQ as a child and wanted to test those at the extremes (both high and low). As it turned out, my friend is kind of smart which would drive our high school teachers ballistic because they couldn’t understand how someone who seemed so mentally disabled was doing well in their classes (one teacher would literally whip his exams at him whenever he scored well). I felt like whipping the computer at him when he obtained a maximum chronometric score only two levels below my own.
However I would learn that the Promethean was noticing similar anomalies. Although this chronometric game correlated well with IQ, there seemed to be a subgroup of people whose IQ’s wildly mismatched their chronometrics. This caused the Promethean to propose a very weird theory that he didn’t know how to test. The theory asserted that g (general intelligence) has both a static and a dynamic component (not to be confused with fluid g and crystallized g) and that this game was measuring and improving the dynamic component. The theory claimed that static g is the part that you can’t change and it tends to dominate, and static g is correlated with dynamic g, but occasionally you’ll meet a mediocre mind who has a shocking amount of dynamic potential just waiting to be unleashed. The Promethean felt this might explain the Flynn effect.
Well, when someone that incredibly brilliant claims to have possibly explained the Flynn effect, I pay attention, and while I found the theory fascinating, it didn’t seem to add up. For starters, I grew up reading Jensen who felt g can’t really be improved and was an entirely physiological variable not sensetive to psychological manipulation. Even specific mental abilities can not be improved except in the most narrow of ways. Secondly, Richard Lynn’s nutrition theory parsimoniously explained the Flynn effect for me. If nutrition can improve traits like height and brain size by 1.6 SD over the 20th century, then why not mental abilities? Lastly, I was aware of no evidence of reaction time improving over the 20th; just the opposite, we now know it’s become slower.
So I rejected the Promethean’s theory, and seldom gave it much more thought. But very recently, I’ve started thinking it might be true for the following reasons:
1) The Flynn effect seems too huge to be fully explained by nutrition. While 20th century nutrition has improved height and brain size by maybe 1.6 SD, the Flynn effect on the Raven “culture reduced” IQ test has by now been maybe 2.3 SD! While it’s likely that nutrition affects the brain in a lopsided way causing Raven ability to improve much more than overall intelligence, even this theory seems strained when you consider the claim that genetic g has declined by 1 SD, since the 19th century, which means nutrition would have had to add 2.33 SD + 1 SD = 3.33 SD to Raven scores! Seems like a stretch.
2) So if nutrition can’t fully explain the Raven Flynn effect, can the 20th century rise in education explain it? No. The Raven was designed to be culture fair, and Flynn found that advances in schooling explain only 5% of Raven gains (virtually nothing). So another explanation is needed.
3) While it’s true that simple reaction time has slowed since the 19th century, I’ve recently learned that complex reaction time has improved. Perhaps one can think of simple and complex reaction time as measures of static and dynamic g, respectively. While scholar Michael Woodley explains the improving complex reaction time as a practice effect, complex reaction time appears to be the only mental ability that when improved, shows broad transfer. In other words, just as lifting weights can make you genuinely stronger, exercising your complex reaction time may actually make you smarter and the 20th century provided such exercise through video games, cars, and fast paced television. Perhaps the reason why experimental attempts to improve the IQ’s of culturally deprived kids have been such failures is that they focused on intense education when they should have been focusing on intense chronometrics.
A good analogy might be fat-free body weight. This has both a static component (height, bone density, shoulder broadness etc) and a dynamic component that can be improved through exercise (muscle). Usually the static component dominates and sets an upper limit for the dynamic component. A 120 lb person who is tall and broad has far more potential to gain 50 lbs of muscle through weight training than a 120 lb person who is short and narrow. Analogously, a big brained person with an 80 IQ might have more potential to add 20 IQ points through intensive chronometric training than a small brained person with an 80 IQ.
I realize this is a radical theory and it could be completely wrong.