Der Flynn-Effekt! Sind Kinder klüger als ihre Eltern?
The Flynn effect refers to the observed trend of increasing intelligence test performance across generations. The effect was named after the New Zealand psychologist James Flynn, who discovered it in the 1980s.

Whether this means that today's children are "actually smarter" depends on the definition of intelligence and cleverness. However, it is known that the environment in which children grow up plays an important role in their cognitive development.

Intelligence is the ability to learn from experience, solve problems, and use knowledge to adapt to new situations. Raymond Cattell and John Horn reduced the definition to two factors:

  • Fluid Intelligence (Ff): Ability and speed in solving e.g. logical problems
  • Crystalline Intelligence (Gc): Accumulated knowledge, vocabulary, applied skills

There are also theories of multiple intelligences. Intelligence consists of several skills that come in different packages. There is evidence of multiple intelligences in people with Savant Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

There are experts who say that success is much more than high intelligence; very successful people are also conscientious, well connected and persistent (grit). Experts spend about a decade in intense, daily training. Particularly important is "deliberate practice".

The reasons for the Flynn effect are varied and not fully understood to this day. Some theories suggest that the effect is due to improved diet, increased education, and a generally more demanding environment. Other research indicates that the Flynn effect is due to the proliferation of information and communication technologies.

In his work, Flynn found evidence "that representative samples of Americans consistently performed better on IQ tests over a 46-year period, with the aggregate gain corresponding to a mean IQ increase of 13.8 points" (Flynn, 1984).

Assuming that IQ tests are an accurate representation of intelligence, this result suggests an increase in human intelligence over time.

Flynn explains, “If you judged people a century ago by modern norms, they would have an average IQ of 70. If you judged us by their norms, we would have an average IQ of 130” (Flynn, 2013). 

Regardless of the exact causes of the Flynn effect, this effect has important implications for our society. For example, due to the Flynn effect, many countries have updated their intelligence tests to ensure test results remain meaningful.

Another important aspect of the Flynn effect is whether steady increases in intelligence test performance actually mean that we as a society are becoming smarter overall. Some critics argue that the Flynn effect only reflects a change in ability to take intelligence tests and does not necessarily indicate an increase in overall intelligence.

Some research suggests that there may be a persistent reverse Flynn effect (a drop in IQ scores) in Norway, Denmark, Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and German-speaking countries. In certain cases, this apparent reversal may be due to cultural changes that make parts of intelligence tests obsolete. Meta-analysis indicates that the Flynn effect is continuing overall, either at the same rate or at a slower rate in developed countries.

Separate from this debate, the Flynn effect is an important phenomenon in psychology and has important implications for the way we measure and understand intelligence and human ability.


Cole, M. W., Ito, T., & Braver, T. S. (2015). Lateral prefrontal cortex contributes to fluid intelligence through multinetwork connectivity. Brain Connectivity, 5, 497– 504. 

Trahan, Lisa H.; Stuebing, Karla K.; Fletcher, Jack M.; Hiscock, Merrill (2014). "The Flynn effect: A meta-analysis"Psychological Bulletin140 (5): 1332–1360. doi:10.1037/a0037173ISSN 1939-1455PMC 4152423PMID 24979188.

Written by Mara Schär


Vielen Dank!

Mara Schär on Feb 16, 2023

Danke für den fundierten Artikel und die Literaturangaben dazu. Sehr spannend. Beobachte einzelne im Artikel aufgeführte Punkte bei meinen Kindern…

Ruedi Stirnimann on Feb 14, 2023

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