Are Educated Better in Cognition than Their Ancestors? An Indian Flynn Effect Study


Flynn Effect (FE) deals with the issue of how the general scores of a population change over time. The existing cognitive test was developed in 1976 and since then there have been a lot of modernization and technological changes in the country. Hence, the objective was to study the possible FE with respect to cognition in the country. A sample of 142 people was assessed in 1976 to make norms on Post Graduate Institute- Memory Scale (PGI-MS). To compare these results the present study included 140 consenting subjects in 2013 almost in the forth decade after the first study. PGIMS is an original and one of the most popular tests of cognition in India, developed by Dwarka Pershad & N.N.Wig. It measures the cognitive ability, even with the illiterate population. Comparison of the age related norms (1976 and 2013) after 37 years shows that there was FE seen in the age group 20–29 years in the domains of attention and concentration (p=0.04), delayed recall (p=0.001) and recognition (p=0.05). 30–39 years age group also shows the evidence of FE in retention for dissimilar pairs i.e. ability for new learning ability (p=0.001). Finally, in the age group of 40–49 years there was FE seen in immediate recall (p=0.0007) and retention for similar pairs i.e. ability for simple memory (p=0.01). Whereas there was no FE seen in ages between 50–69 years i.e. amongst the senior citizens. Results show there is a shift in the cognition to a higher continuum. The conclusions made on the cognitive abilities for persons between 20 to 49 years, on the bases of age old norms, is an underestimate of their present abilities. On the basis of this study it can be inferred that, there is a change in cognitive abilities over generations, as Flynn (2012) stated, human beings are not getting smarter they are just being more modern. Hence, there is a need to revise the available norms of the test, across all the ages and education level, for assessing the cognitive functioning to make them more valid and reliable for clinical and research purposes.


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Correspondence to Ashima Nehra.

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Nehra, A., Sreenivas, V., Kaur, H. et al. Are Educated Better in Cognition than Their Ancestors? An Indian Flynn Effect Study. Act Nerv Super 56, 45–51 (2014).

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Key words

  • Neuropsychology
  • Memory
  • Cognition
  • Flynn effect
  • PGI-MS