Received wisdom

Average IQ is falling in Britain and beyond, explains Philip Hunter


Back when Britain was brainy: applicants for the Mensa exam gather at the Russell Hotel in 1961

Intelligence quotients (IQs) have risen in developed nations for almost a century. This phenomenon, named the “Flynn effect” after the New Zealand intelligence researcher James Flynn, was first identified in 1984 in the United States. It has been found to occur in all developed nations, and some others as well. The received wisdom became: IQs always go up. But this trend seems to be stopping and even reversing in some countries, research in Britain, Denmark and Norway has shown. It is discomfiting to find intelligence in decline. There is a strong association between a nation’s IQ, its prosperity and health.

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