Small project grant 2021: Investigation of the effects of learning on reasoning ability

One of the 2021 small project grants has been granted to Amos Pagin, to support a behavioural study investigating the effects of learning on reasoning ability.

IQ scores have risen dramatically during the past century—a phenomenon commonly referred to as the "Flynn effect". With an average gain of 3 IQ per decade, the Flynn effect appears to co-occur with the spread of industrialization and mass education. Still, the cognitive mechanisms underlying the Flynn effect remain poorly understood and researchers lack a compelling answer to the question “When IQ scores increase, what in the mind has changed, and why?”. Previously, researchers have noted that the Flynn effect mainly occurs on tests that emphasise abstract reasoning and similarly, a growing body of evidence is indicating that education improves IQ scores on such tests. Together, these findings invite the view that abstract reasoning ability is not a fixed capacity, but a cognitive skill shaped by learning and experience.

The research from Pagin aims to advance the understanding of how learning improves reasoning ability. The behavioural experiment will test two primary hypotheses: 

Learning effects on reasoning ability reflect learned tendencies to use increasingly abstract rules and representations.

Learning effects on reasoning ability reflect an increasingly structured approach to abstract problem-solving. The study will contribute to the understanding of the cognitive processes involved in matrix reasoning, as well as to the understanding of what forms of learning contribute to increased IQ in society.

Amos Pagin is a PhD student in psychology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. His research interests include cognition and lifespan development, with a particular focus on the cognitive and neural processes that support reasoning, learning, and memory.