Stop comparing EQ and IQ

Reality is a little more uncomfortable

General Productivity Science

I see this comparison come up online and at work a lot. The implication being that if we want success we look for people with good EQ skills and if they have weak technical skills we can teach them. Sure. These are both skills but if everyone is good at communicating but rubbish at the technical stuff, guess what the quality is like...

These ideas are my own and do not represent the views of my employer.

I realise that this post has the potential to annoy or offend. Sadly I also don't expect to change too many minds. I guess I am hoping for this to be cathartic and that it will allow me to move on without being triggered in the future (I should meditate more). The idea that general intelligence is fixed and is decided for us in a genetic lottery does not sit well with us. Including me. Although I would like to be smarter I think (with my limited intellect) that the closer you align your reality with actual reality, the less suffering you will inflict on yourself and others.


IQ vs EQ is a nonsensical comparison. EQ is dependent on mental facilities correlated to IQ such as verbal comprehension, working memory, perceptual organization, and processing speed. EQ is also very dependent on skills learned while IQ is correlated with the speed and proficiency of skill acquisition. In this post I build on this to try show that IQ should be a fairly good indicator of potential EQ. It should not be surprising that both IQ and EQ are good indicators of success. They are likely BOTH found in successful individuals.

Setting the ground work

First let me make a few assertions. These are assertions that are either consensus in the SCIENTIFIC community or seem to be the view of the majority of publishing EXPERTS in the related fields. I contrast this to the general public where there is plenty of myth and confusion. Things like "the 8 intelligences", "street smart", and "EQ" resonate with our desire to be able to work hard and be better. I do not wish to undermine this and I am by no means asserting IQ is the sole determining trait for success. I really mean this because if I did think about it often, I would seldom assume myself the smartest person in any given room. Which could be depressing. Instead, learning is important. That aside; when confronted with facts versus what I wish was true, on a good day I try choose the facts (or as close to we have them from science when studying the brain).

Assertion 1: Everything about us has a physical explanation

No metaphysics apply. There is no soul that makes us think a certain way. All our thinking happens in our brain due to biological processes that are possibly mysterious to us but are due to physical systems within our body.

Assertion 2: Intelligence is explained by genetics

IQ is a fairly good normalized measure of general intelligence. Following on from assertion 1 it is a trait about us that is coded into our DNA. To make this practical. For the smartest people of our time, it was clear that they were special by as early as 2 years of age. Kim Ung-Young for example, with an IQ of 210, was fluent in four languages by age 2. There is little chance that child rearing was the only factor in this.

Assertion 3: IQ is a good indicator of ability for skill acquisition

Studies show a very positive correlation between IQ and skill acquisition. This is in both physical and mental skills. Again we are not dealing in absolutes here but the studies do show positive correlations.

Assertion 4: Skill acquisition is a major contributor to success in life

I don't have a study to back this one up. There do seem to be ones directly linking IQ, and I am hypothesizing this is due to the skills that a high IQ would allow you to quickly learn and master.

Assertion 5: EQ is dependent on IQ (or at least correlated)

So if EQ is made up of problem solving, perception, verbal communication and comprehension, and many other things along these lines it shouldn't be hard to accept that EQ correlates to general intelligence, which is what the science shows.


It seems reasonable then that there is a casual (or not so casual) relationship between IQ and EQ.

It therefore follows that IQ is a good indicator of either having high EQ or being able to quickly improve EQ.

Life is messy and for all our advances we are still in the dark on a lot of the processes that operate in our brain. So this is not supposed to be a post saying that the smart are destined to succeed and the rest are just here to witness it. Far from it! Determination, creativity, compassion, and many other traits make us who we are and allow us to achieve great things.

As a software developer though, stop telling me I don't need to work with smart people, just good communicators. It takes a lot to convince me that someone with poor people skills is smart. So stop making this a zero sum game. It is not. Or maybe it is and I am just not smart enough to realise it, and I am so poor at communicating I can't convince anyone otherwise.


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