Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Renorming IQ Tests Due To Flynn Effect May Have Unintended Consequences

Date:
October 20, 2003
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
The steady rising of IQ scores over the last century – known as the Flynn effect – causes IQ tests norms to become obsolete over time. To counter this effect, IQ tests are "renormed" (made harder) every 15-20 years by resetting the mean score to 100 to account for the previous gains in IQ scores. But according to new research, such renorming may have unintended consequences, particularly in the area of special education placements for children with borderline or mild mental retardation.

WASHINGTON -- The steady rising of IQ scores over the last century – known as the Flynn effect – causes IQ tests norms to become obsolete over time. To counter this effect, IQ tests are "renormed" (made harder) every 15-20 years by resetting the mean score to 100 to account for the previous gains in IQ scores. But according to new research, such renorming may have unintended consequences, particularly in the area of special education placements for children with borderline or mild mental retardation. The findings are reported on in the October issue of American Psychologist, a journal of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Researchers Tomoe Kanaya, M.A. and Stephen J. Ceci, Ph.D., of Cornell University and Matthew H. Scullin, Ph.D., of West Virginia University used IQ data from nearly 9,000 school psychologist special education assessments from nine school districts across the U.S. to document how the Flynn effect influences mental retardation diagnoses for several years after a new test is introduced. The students (ages 6 – 17) were from different geographical regions, neighborhood types and socioeconomic status.

The results show that the test renorming due to the Flynn effect influences which children are diagnosed with mental retardation regardless of their actual cognitive ability. According to the researchers, children in the same classroom with the same cognitive ability could be diagnosed differently simply because different test norms were used for each child. Students in the borderline and mild mental retardation range lost an average of 5.6 IQ points when retested on a renormed test and were more likely to be classified mentally retarded compared with peers retested on the same test, according to the study.

Specifically, when a commonly used IQ test (the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children or WISC) was renormed to account for the Flynn effect, the number of children in the borderline mental retardation range (IQ 66-70) recommended for special school programs due to mild mental retardation tripled during the first five years of the new test compared to an equivalent IQ range during the last five years of the previous test.

"Some students who would be eligible for mental retardation services under new IQ norms will fail to receive them because the older norms of the IQ test they were given allowed them to score above the cutoff," write the researchers. "Also, students who would not have qualified for mental retardation services had they been tested a year earlier will now do so if they are given an IQ test with newer, harder norms." Not only does this deny services to some students who need them, it wreaks havoc with school system's special education budgets because there are dramatic changes in the numbers of children that will qualify for special educational services.

Besides educational and financial issues, the Flynn effect and the renormed IQ tests can also have important legal implications. Nowhere are the consequences of IQ score fluctuations due to the Flynn effect more critical, say the authors, than in the determination of whether a death row inmate can be considered mentally retarded. "Our results imply that the year that a capital murder defendant was tested can determine whether she or he is sentenced to die as opposed to life imprisonment. This raises concerns regarding inmates on death row who tested above the 70-75 IQ cutoff on a test that was near the end of its norming cycle – when scores are highly inflated as well as an inmate who tested in the mental retardation range during the earliest years of a new norm – when the test is hardest," according to the researchers.

The Flynn effect also has military occupational consequences, according to the study. Depending on which IQ norms are used, a military recruit might be eligible or not for military service and influence whether they will be allowed to enter certain occupations or occupy certain ranks in the military.

"The main conclusion that can be drawn from these results is that caution should be used when basing important financial, social or legal decision on IQ scores," say the researchers. "Perhaps the most important times to be particularly cautious are when a test is either at the beginning or at the tail end of its norming cycle. Although test scores are most valid at the beginning of a norming cycle, they run the greatest risk of being compared to highly inflated scores from the waning years of the previous norming cycle."

Article: "The Flynn Effect and U.S. Policies. The Impact of Rising IQ Scores on American Society Via Mental Retardation Diagnoses," Tomoe Kanaya, Cornell University, Matthew H. Scullin, West Virginia University and Stephen J. Ceci, Cornell University; American Psychologist, Vol. 58, No. 10.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "Renorming IQ Tests Due To Flynn Effect May Have Unintended Consequences." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031020053951.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2003, October 20). Renorming IQ Tests Due To Flynn Effect May Have Unintended Consequences. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031020053951.htm
American Psychological Association. "Renorming IQ Tests Due To Flynn Effect May Have Unintended Consequences." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031020053951.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) A new study suggests that mixing alcohol with energy drinks makes you want to keep the party going. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

AP (July 18, 2014) Following the nationwide trend of eased restrictions on marijuana use, pot edibles are growing in popularity. One Boston-area cooking class is teaching people how to eat pot responsibly. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins