Who discovered the Flynn Effect? A review of early studies of the secular increase of intelligence
Richard Lynn; 2013 (article in press)
Flynn has been credited with having discovered the increase in IQs that have been reported in a number of countries during most of the twentieth century and that have come to be known as “the Flynn effect”. This paper documents and discusses a number of reports of increases in IQs that were published from 1936 onwards before the phenomenon was rediscovered by Flynn (1984, 1987). These early reports showed that the Flynn effect is fully present in pre-school children, does not increase during the school age years, and is greater for non-verbal abilities than for verbal abilities.
"The term “the Flynn effect” was coined by Herrnstein and Murray (1994, p.307) to designate the increases in IQs during the twentieth century that were documented for the United States and for a number of other countries by Flynn (1984,1987). This designation has led many to believe that it was Flynn who discovered the phenomenon. Thus, the rise of IQs “has been called the Flynn effect after its discoverer” (Newcombe, 2007, p. 74); “Flynn's discovery” (Zhu & Tulsky,1999, p.1,255); “Flynn, a New Zealand psychologist who discovered that IQ scores are inflating over time” (Syed, 2007,p.17); and “the insight that made him famous…intelligence scores are rising, James R. Flynn has discovered” (Holloway,1999, p.3). These attributions are misplaced. There were numerous reports of secular increases in intelligence during the half century before they were rediscovered by Flynn (1984). The first objective of this paper is to summarize these early and largely forgotten studies. Who knows today of the work of Runquist (1936), who first discovered the effect? Or of Roesell (1937), Johnson (1937), Wheeler (1942) or Smith (1942) who published early reports on this phenomenon? None of these names appear in textbooks on intelligence such as those of Brody (1992), Sternberg (2000), Hunt (2011), Mackintosh (2011) and Sternberg and Kaufman (2011), or even in books wholly devoted to the Flynn effect by Neisser (1998) and Flynn (2007). The second objective of this paper is to discuss the implications that can be drawn from these early studies."
"Because all the important features of the increase had been reported many years before Flynn's studies, it is difficult to find any justification for designating the phenomenon “the Flynn effect”. In the history of science it is customary to name phenomena after those who first identified them, e.g. Boyle's law, the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle, and the Doppler effect. The first to report the secular increase in intelligence was Runquist (1936) and therefore the proper designation should surely be “the Runquist effect"."