Secular gains in intelligence test scores have perplexed researchers since they were documented by Flynn (1984, 1987), but few have attempted to understand them as a cognitive phenomenon. Gains are most pronounced on seemingly “culture-free” tests, which require analogical reasoning in the near-absence of familiar content, prompting Flynn (2007) to attribute rising scores to improvements in abstract reasoning conferred by a 20th-century emphasis on scientific thinking. Building upon Flynn's theory and Singley and Anderson's (1989) conceptualization of transfer as common productions, I propose that recent-born individuals have developed a relatively general procedural knowledge structure, or “weak method” (Singley & Anderson, 1989, p. 230), for analogical mapping. I test the theory first with archival data, and then with think-aloud verbal reports obtained while participants from two cohorts completed the Raven's Matrices, the test with the largest Flynn effect. Consistent with the theory, it is found that individuals from the earlier cohort are less able to map objects corresponding to higher levels of relational abstraction. Previous research suggests this weak method may be cultivated by learning to solve a wide variety of the kinds of unfamiliar problems that require an initial process of working through an example. The work identifies a plausible cognitive mechanism for the Flynn effect, makes testable predictions, reveals new insights into the cognition of matrix reasoning, and highlights the indispensible role of cognitive theories in advancing and testing cross-cultural generalizations.
|Commitee:||Barrett, Anne, Boot, Walter, Connor, Carol, Kelley, Colleen|
|School:||The Florida State University|
|School Location:||United States -- Florida|
|Source:||DAI-B 73/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Analogical reasoning, Flynn effect, Intelligence test scores, Secular gains|
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