EQ, IQ, and all that

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source:  Information Processing

This Quora answer, from a pyschology professor who works on personality psychometrics, illustrates well the difference between rigorous and non-rigorous research in this area. Some years ago a colleague and I tried to replicate Duckworth’s findings on Grit, but to no avail, although IIRC our sample size was roughly as large as hers. In our minds, we used Grit and Conscientiousness (Big5) interchangeably, although we specifically used Duckworth’s Grit Scale survey in our measurements.

Note, I do believe that the ability to model the internal emotions and feelings of others varies from individual to individual, and this is probably how I would define something like EQ. However, that is different from the claim that EQ is something we can reliably measure and use to predict outcomes, or that it isn’t a combination of other already known constructs.

Quora: Jordan B Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist,… 10.3k Views

There is no such thing as EQ. Let me repeat that: “There is NO SUCH THING AS EQ.” The idea was popularized by a journalist, Daniel Goleman, not a psychologist. You can’t just invent a trait. You have to define it and measure it and distinguish it from other traits and use it to predict the important ways that people vary.

EQ is not a psychometrically valid concept. Insofar as it is anything (which it isn’t) it’s the Big Five trait agreeableness, although this depends, as it shouldn’t, on which EQ measure is being used (they should all measure THE SAME THING). Agreeable people are compassionate and polite, but they can also be pushovers. Disagreeable people, on average (if they aren’t too disagreeable) make better managers, because they are straightforward, don’t avoid conflict and cannot be easily manipulated.

Let me say it again: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EQ. Scientifically, it’s a fraudulent concept, a fad, a convenient band-wagon, a corporate marketing scheme. (Here’s an early critique by Davies, M., Stankov, L. and Roberts, D. Emotional intelligence: in search of an elusive construct. – PubMed – NCBI ; Here’s a conclusion reached by Harms and Crede, in an excellent article — comprehensive and well thought-through (2010): “Our searches of the literature revealed only six articles in which the authors either explicitly examined the incremental validity of EI scores over measures of both cognitive ability and Big Five personality traits in predicting either academic or work performance, or presented data in a manner that allowed examination of this issue. Not one of these six articles (Barchard,2003; Newsome, Day, & Catano, 2000;O’Connor & Little, 2003; Rode, Arthaud-Day, Mooney, Near, & Baldwin, 2008;Rode et al., 2007; Rossen & Kranzler,2009) showed a significant contribution for EI in the prediction of performance after controlling for both cognitive ability and the Big Five… For correlations involving the overall EI construct, EI explained almost no incremental variance in performance ([change in prediction] = .00. Findings were identical when considering only cases involving an ability-based measure of IE….” See: http://snip.ly/7kc45

Harms and Crede also comment: “…proofs of validity [for EI[ seem to come from measuring constructs that have existed for a long time and are simply being relabeled and recategorized. For example,one of the proposed measures of ESC,the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (Mikolajczak, Luminet, Leroy, & Roy,2007), makes use of measures of assertiveness, social competence, self-confidence,stress management, and impulsivity among other things. Most, if not all, of these constructs are firmly embedded in and well-accounted for by well-designed measures of personality traits such as the Hogan Personality Inventory (Hogan & Hogan, 1992)and the Multidimensional Personality Ques-tionnaire (Tellegen & Waller, 2008). The substantial relationships observed between these ESC and trait-based EI measures, and personality inventories, bears this out. It therefore appears that the predictive validity of ESC or EI measures may be accounted for in large part by the degree to which they assess subfacets of higher-order traits relevant to the outcomes being predicted. For example, Cherniss (2010) relates that two studies of self-discipline showed them to be significant predictors of academic performance and then criticizes Landy (2005) for not taking them into account in a review of studies of ‘‘social intelligence.’’ Given that self-control (or impulse control)is widely regarded as a major subfacet of conscientiousness (Roberts, Chernyshenko,Stark, & Goldberg, 2005) and that numerous studies have linked Conscientiousness with academic performance, that there is a link between a facet of Conscientiousness and academic performance is hardly news.”

IQ is a different story. It is the most well-validated concept in the social sciences, bar none. It is an excellent predictor of academic performance, creativity, ability to abstract, processing speed, learning ability and general life success.

There are other traits that are important to general success, including conscientiousness, which is an excellent predictor of grades, managerial and administrative ability, and life outcomes, on the more conservative side.

It should also be noted that IQ is five or more times as powerful a predictor as even good personality trait predictors such as conscientiousness. The true relationship between grades, for example, and IQ might be as high as r = .50 or even .60 (accounting for 25-36% of the variance in grades). Conscientiousness, however, probably tops out at around r = .30, and is more typically reported as r = .25 (say, 5 to 9% of the variance in grades). There is nothing that will provide you with a bigger advantage in life than a high IQ. Nothing. To repeat it: NOTHING.

In fact, if you could choose to be born at the 95th percentile for wealth, or the 95th percentile for IQ, you would be more successful at age 40 as a consequence of the latter choice.

It might be objected that we cannot measure traits such as conscientiousness as well as we measure IQ, as we primarily rely on self or other-reports for the former. But no one has solved this problem. There are no “ability” tests for conscientiousness. I am speaking as someone who has tried to produce such tests for ten years, and failed (despite trying dozens of good ideas, with top students working on the problem). IQ is king. This is why academic psychologists almost never measure it. If you measure it along with your putatively “new” measure, IQ will kill your ambitions. For the career minded, this is a no go zone. So people prefer to talk about multiple intelligences and EQ, and all these things that do not exist. PERIOD.


By the way, there is also no such thing as “grit,” despite what Angela Duckworth says. Grit is conscientiousness, plain and simple (although probably more the industrious side than the orderly side). All Duckworth and her compatriots did was fail to notice that they had re-invented a very well documented phenomena, that already had a name (and, when they did notice it, failed to produce the appropriate mea culpas. Not one of psychology’s brighter moments). A physicists who “re-discovered” iron and named it melignite or something equivalent would be immediately revealed as ignorant or manipulative (or, more likely, as ignorant and manipulative), and then taunted out of the field. Duckworth? She received a MacArthur Genius grant for her trouble. That’s all as reprehensible as the self-esteem craze (self-esteem, by the way, is essentially .65 Big Five trait neuroticism (low) and .35 extraversion (high), with some accurate self-assessment of general life competence thrown in, for those who are a bit more self-aware). See http://snip.ly/5smyx

By the way, in case I haven’t made myself clear: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EQ. OR GRIT. OR “SELF-ESTEEM.”

It’s crooked psychology. Reminiscent of all the recent upheaval in the social psychology subfield: Final Report: Stapel Affair Points to Bigger Problems in Social Psychology

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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