Consistent Rise in the Average IQ Test Scores & Explanations

Generally, a score of 100 is considered an average IQ test score. To keep the figure constant for the majority, the IQ testing industry has been adjusting the difficulty level of questions in the instrument frequently. This phenomenon is on rise for last couple of decades. 

Can we say that people are developing more intelligent or average IQ scores are rising?

Whatever answer may be, the development has not only put a question mark on IQ scores but also given rise to a number of conflicting explanations. Some experts take  environment, improved nutrition, smaller families, technology and training as the crucial factors behind the rising trend.

But there is no general agreement to explain the phenomenon.

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Flynn Effect and Average IQ test scores

The average IQ test score is the numerical expression to classify majority (50%) in the average range of IQ. It is denoted with the figure of 100 on a full IQ test scale. Due to standard deviation of 15 points you may be considered scoring 100-115 or 85-100 even when you score a century.

On final stages of the 20th century, a sharp rise was observed in the number of people scoring much better than the average IQ test scores. Some nations including Israel, Holland and Belgium demonstrated rise of 10 points for a decade. The IQ testing companies had to revise their scales to keep majority of test takers within average IQ test scores.

The major shift was observed in abstract reasoning assessment sessions. The trend was found moderate in vocabulary and mathematical testing. The explanation given for the rise by James Flynn, the researcher of the fact, is called Flynn Effect.

He was American national teaching Political Science in New Zealand. He researched databases of 20 countries to discover conclusive proof that average IQ scores were being defeated by majority of the test takers over the decades. He focused upon those IQ or aptitude career tests which were almost unaltered for the years. His contributions stirred the psychology circles in 1980s.

He stated a number of factors behind the rise. However, he was not sure for the exact explanation. It might be an increase in the intelligence, he said, but it wouldn’t be implausible that people have been scoring better for their improving acquaintance with the IQ test mechanism.

average iq test scores


Flynn observed that environment affects the intelligence and vice versa. However, most of the environmental factors affect intelligence for a short time. So, the increase in the IQ test results may not be permanent.

Smaller Families

He also observed that the people are trying to keep their families smaller. This has allowed them to focus their due attention and resources upon the mental growth of the children.

Improved Nutrition

Flynn observed that rise in the average IQ test scores is more prominent in those countries where nutrition has been improving for past couple of decades. He said that malnutrition definitely delays mental development of children. He theorized that nutrition has been causing proper development of mental capabilities.

Other Explanations of Rise in the Average IQ Test Results

Some Other psychologists, by expounding research of James Flynn, forwarded some other reasons for the massive rise in the average IQ test scores.


A psychologist, Neisser observed that average IQ test scores have been rising for every new generation (about one decade). He said that James Flynn had mentioned television as one probable reason for increase in the abstract reasoning IQ test scores. However, the later developments have been improving abstract reasoning capability of the test takers. He says:

“From pictures on the wall to movies to television to video games to computers, each successive generation has been exposed to far richer optical displays than the one before… Beyond merely looking at pictures we analyze them. Pictures, puzzles, mazes, exploded views and complex montages appear everywhere.”

Complex Society

The society and its problems are getting more complex with every passing day. Dr. Wendy M. Williams observes:

"People are smarter now, they know more. Children are stimulated at an early age by a more complicated world, fostering neurological development."


It is a well known fact that IQ test scales were introduced in the USA by father of the Eugenics, in 1908. He used the tool to reduce immigration from Eastern Europe particularly of those with Jewish background. His customized IQ test scales determined that 83% of Jews, 80% of Hungarians, 79% of Italians and 87% Russians were feeble-minded (idiots). However, when IQ tests were humanized, people started to score better than earlier.

Professor Stephen Jay Gould says:

“(It is)...the abstraction of intelligence as a single entity, its location within the brain, its quantification as one number for each individual, and the use of these numbers to rank people in a single series of worthiness, invariably to find that oppressed and disadvantaged groups--races, classes, or sexes--are innately inferior and deserve their status.” (The Mismeasure of Man).

Socioeconomic Conditions

The studies of Greg Duncan at Northwestern University and Jean Brooks-Gunn and Pamela Klebanov at Columbia University, have proved that socioeconomic conditions are one factor behind fluctuating average IQ test scores. Better socioeconomic conditions cause better development of mental capabilities.

They proved that average IQ test results of blacks and whites living in the same kind of conditions differ slightly. On the basis of their experiments, they rejected the theory that blacks have 15 points shorter IQ to the white population.

Preparation and Right Information

It is doubtful that intelligence is rising. However, even if it is admitted as a natural result of evolution, it can’t rise with the speed as IQ test results have been showing. Most of the test takers know that IQ test results are going to play an important role in their future. That’s why 97% people go through some sort of training to score better in the IQ test sessions.

Is it not the most important factor behind rise of average IQ test scores? Then there are a number of companies claiming to boost your IQ either with information or with tools. The opinion of Dov Libeman, a Housting University professor is conclusive:

“Intelligence is a multifaceted thing, incapable of being summed up by one number, and all a consistent rise in IQ test scores tells you is that people have learned better how to take them.”

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Final Conclusion on IQ, whether its raising or Not....My answer is NO, how just see below. Not rated yet
In my opinion, the above conclusions are 60% correct only. Why 60%? Please Review below points: 1.The IQ test and its formula is Invented by Alfred …

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