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Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Smart Are Our Explanations for Why We’re Getting Smarter?

APA Alan Kaufman, Thomas Dillon, and Jeffrey Kirsch recently presented a withering critique of James Flynn's new book, Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century. Although they agree with Flynn's central assertion that IQs have been steadily rising across the past century, Kaufman et al. take issue with Flynn's suggestion that this increase is largely due to our having developed new cognitive skills and neural clusters to deal with the wider range of cognitive problems in modern society. According to Kaufman et al., Flynn has failed to acknowledge research incompatible with his theory and has based his views on highly questionable assumptions. In addition, they argue:

In general, the book is disorganized, rambles from topic to topic, offers no overview or guiding principle, and treats data in an arbitrary and haphazard manner to test this or that hypothesis. Sometimes Flynn's comments read more like astrology than psychology….The style is to offer a rash of data and citations and follow them with an assertion that flows more from the author's convictions than from logic or the findings of sound empirical research.
If you are familiar with the Flynn effect and proposed explanations for it, where do you stand in this debate?

Read the Review
Review"A Beautiful Theory, Killed by a Nasty, Ugly Little Fact"
By Alan S. Kaufman, Thomas Dillon, and Jeffrey W. Kirsch
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(19)

Comments

James R. Flynn

An author who replies to bad reviews always looks like a cry-baby. Therefore, it is traditional to simply ask readers to read the book and any previously published material that seems relevant, so they can make up their own mind.
I urge reading: (1) From my book (J. R. Flynn, "Are we getting smarter", page 31 and after) to assess whether the discussion of topics like developing nations, the death penalty, youth and age, race and gender, and methodology
really add nothing to my published views. (2) J. R. Flynn (2010), Problems with IQ gains: the huge vocabulary gap, Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment 28: 412-433. It presents my rebuttal of the reviewer's main point.

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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