The Flynn effect, so named for James R. Flynn, who discovered it, is simply the observation that average IQs have been steadily increasing throughout the world over the past century. This effect is important mostly for what it implies about intelligence and intelligence testing. Psychometric experiments seem to show that IQ is largely independent of the environment, which is directly contradicted by the Flynn Effect.

There are a number of theories to account for the Flynn Effect, most of them being environmental reasons why our intelligence may have risen. The problem with these theories is that rising IQs do not seem to be the same as rising intelligence; the rise is so great that we should, according to the numbers, have many times more geniuses and many times fewer idiots than even 50 years ago. Such a dramatic change in demographics is not evidenced anywhere but IQ tests, though, which brings us to Flynn's explanation for the effect.

Flynn, claiming that if the IQ scores were valid we would be undergoing a "renaissance," explains his effect by the elegantly simple hypothesis that IQ tests do not accurately measure intelligence. People are, rather, learning a different, much less general skill which applies almost exclusively to IQ tests. In Flynn's words, an "abstract problem solving ability."