Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Two new Atkins MR/ID death penalty Flynn Effect articles

Two new articles published regarding the issue of adjusting IQ scores for the Flynn Effect in Atkins MR/ID death penalty cases. These will be included in an update of the ICDP Flynn Effect archive project which I hope to complete by the end of the week.

Looking to science rather than convention in adjusting IQ scores when death is at issue. 2010 Volume 41, Issue 5 (Oct), p. 413-419. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Cunningham, Mark D.; Tassé, Marc J.


The progressive obsolescence of IQ test norms and associated score inflation (i.e., the Flynn effect) may have literal life and death significance in capital mental retardation determinations (i.e., Atkins hearings). Hagan, Drogin, and Guilmette (2008) asserted that IQ score corrections for the Flynn effect were inconsistent with a “standard of practice” they deduced from custom, convention, and authority. More accurately, this reflected a proposed practice guideline or recommendation for practice, rather than a standard of practice. Whether a proposed guideline or recommendation for practice, these are better informed by an analysis of the available science than accepted convention. The authors reviewed research findings regarding the occurrence of the Flynn effect in the “zone of ambiguity” (IQ = 71–80), and proposed a best practice recommendation for discussing and reporting Flynn effect correction of IQ scores in capital mental retardation determinations.

Science rather than advocacy when reporting IQ scores, p. 420-423. Hagan, Leigh D.; Drogin, Eric Y.; Guilmette, Thomas J.


The existence of shifts in mean IQ scores over time is well established. However, on a case-by-case basis, such shifts vary unreliably, rendering specific adjustments to a given individual's IQ score incalculable. Based upon data presented previously (Hagan, Drogin, & Guilmette, 2008) as well as a review of more recent studies that have further detailed the wide variability of mean score shifts, any proposal to “correct” IQ scores in forensic evaluations due to the “Flynn effect” (FE) is unjustifiable. To offer the court an unreliable new IQ score in place of an allegedly unreliable old one—and to do so specifically in capital murder cases as opposed to any other context—appears far more reflective of result-focused advocacy than objective scientific practice. Forensic psychologists are explicitly encouraged to address likely ranges of IQ score variability and to discuss in relevant detail the strengths and weaknesses of the specific studies—however much at odds these may be—that attempt to define and quantify mean score shifts.

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