Re: IQ and the Flynn effect

Derek Strong (
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 23:21:19 -0700

Hal writes:

> This is a good overview, but I don't think the proposed explanation is
> very convincing. It's not clear to me how television and especially
> pictures can be said to enrich the viewing environment. We see images
> every time we open our eyes which are every bit as rich as any picture,
> if less artistic. And we certainly see things move for many hours every
> day, so old-fashioned television hardly adds much more stimulation.

The key difference lies not in the richness of the pictures, nor in the
fact that they are moving. What is different is the rapidity with which a
vast number of different *scenes* can be (and regularly are) thrown at the
brain. Humans are used to, say, watching the high speed chase of a lion
running down a wildebeest. Fine. But TV lets you watch, say, a sprinting
lion, then a sprinting wildebeest, then the legs of each, then a passing
car, then an airplane, then a flock of birds, then the narrowing iris of a
human eye, then an explosion, then a view of the earth from space, then a
shot of a human sitting on a couch looking at all of this, all in a
timeframe that is *amazingly* short (on the order of a couple of seconds).

This is unprecedented in terms of available input to the human brain. I
don't know if this explains the Flynn Effect, but it is certainly a big
difference. I believe that if you took, say, a Bushman from the Outback of
Australia, and sat him down in front of a good John Woo flick (Broken Arrow
or Face/Off, for instance), there would be many scenes he simply would not
be able to absorb, because he has no practice taking input at that rate.

If you want an even better example, rent pretty much any Zucker Brothers
Movie (Hot Shots: Deux, for instance) and any Mel Brooks movie (Robin Hood:
Men in Tights, for instance), and then watch first the Zucker Brothers
movie, followed by the Brooks movie. I guarantee that you will feel the
Brooks movie to be interminably slow, with punchlines coming at you only
once every minute or so, rather than every few seconds, as in the Zucker
Brothers movie.

Probably, (wild speculation here), this trend can be traced back to before
the advent of television. Emerging forms of media have allowed us to speed
up and vary our brain input in many ways, if you think about it. Wouldn't
you expect this training to have some effect on our intelligence?

Derek Strong aka Derek Ryan
Webmaster, Extropy Institute