Measuring IQ and EQ

The roots of a mangrove tree are intertwined and reflected upon the black surface of a river in the nighttime. The image accompanies a blog post about measuring IQ and EQ.

IQ and EQ have existed for as long as the human mind. IQ is short for intelligence quotient, and EQ is short for emotional quotient, more commonly called emotional intelligence. Though the concepts are well established, the specific terms have been in use only since the 1900s. Since then, many psychologists have researched how different types of intelligence develop and how to measure them.

Recently on The Science of Personality, cohosts Ryne Sherman, PhD, and Blake Loepp discussed the definition, measurement, and impact of IQ and EQ.

Can we improve IQ or EQ? Read on to find out.

What Are IQ and EQ?

IQ is a long-studied topic built on the assumption that individual differences in intelligence are measurable. Early measurement was based on dividing a numeric test score by age, resulting in a quotient. This was intended to show how smart someone was relative to their age. “Modern IQ tests don’t have that quotient part to them,” Ryne said. “They are standardized to score on a normal distribution.” Broadly, scores between 85 and 115 are average, with 100 as the mean.

Intelligence tests differ in what they measure. Verbal knowledge, mathematical knowledge, spatial reasoning, logical reasoning, abstract problem-solving, and other metrics all contribute to a general factor of intelligence. Scores on intelligence tests are related to many different outcomes, such as longevity, social status, income, identity, and learning ability. (Not all IQ tests are equitable or scientifically validated, however. More on this later.)

Emotional intelligence is our ability to identify and manage our own and others’ emotions. Just as intelligence test scores are related to different outcomes, emotional intelligence test scores can predict many outcomes as well. EQ relates to longevity, academic achievement, career advancement, job performance, mental well-being, and leadership effectiveness.

What Factors Influence IQ and EQ?

Where does IQ come from? IQ develops during childhood and eventually stabilizes, similar to how our personalities develop. Intelligence is influenced by genetics, as well as childhood environmental factors that affect brain development. Environmental factors include our needs for physical well-being, safety, and attachment and belonging. Yet researchers haven’t identified exactly how intelligence develops or what causes individual differences in intelligence.

Where does EQ come from? As with most matters of personality, EQ has a genetic component. Second, a nurturing and structured environment during childhood also helps EQ develop. Finally, we learn emotional intelligence from feedback we receive in our social interactions. “We spend a huge amount of our lives in interpersonal situations trying to deal with interpersonal problems, understanding and evaluating other people’s emotions and motivations,” Ryne said. “All of that is putting EQ into practice.”

How Is Intelligence Measured?

Many different IQ tests were developed throughout the 20th and late 19th centuries. Among the best known are the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. Unlike personality assessments, which have no right or wrong responses, problems on IQ tests usually have only one right answer out of multiple options.

Although intelligence itself can relate to job outcomes, IQ tests tend to show group differences across ethnicity, race, and gender. “Depending on the test that you use, certain groups tend to score higher than others,” Ryne explained. “What you’re faced with as an employer is the potential for adverse impact, the potential that you will be selecting one group unfairly over another group in a selection context.”

Tests to measure EQ tend to be based on either personality or behavior. On personality tests, test takers respond to statements with agreement or disagreement. For example, they might strongly agree that they try to see others’ points of view. Using scales from the Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI), we could describe someone with higher Adjustment and higher Interpersonal Sensitivity scores as likely to have higher emotional intelligence. In terms of the five-factor model (FFM), higher emotional stability and higher agreeableness would correspond to higher emotional intelligence.

On behavior-based EQ tests, test takers might identify emotions on a series of faces or in a video clip. They would be tested on which expression showed the most happiness or frustration. Although behavioral EQ tests can show positive prediction, this type of test might just tend to measure the degree to which people are good at taking tests, Ryne quipped. “With these behaviorally based measures of emotional intelligence, because they tend to be correlated with IQ, you often see adverse impact,” he added.

A Note on Adverse Impact

Local validation is necessary to ensure that an IQ test is predictive in its intended setting or context. Ryne explained the importance of local validity this way: “You need to do a local validation study, otherwise you run the risk of having adverse impact, which itself is not illegal. But if you have adverse impact and you can’t justify the test you’re using to make those selections, then that is illegal.”

Can You Improve IQ or EQ?

Whether it’s possible to improve IQ is a loaded question. You can certainly learn to perform better on an IQ test, but that may just mean you got a better score. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have become more intelligent.

Fortunately, people can improve EQ. “You can develop specific behavioral strategies for using your emotions, but it comes through practice, feedback, and coaching,” Ryne said. A leader who may mismanage their emotions during a meeting can get feedback, learn how to respond differently in the future, and try again.

Listen to this conversation in full on episode 103 of The Science of Personality. Never miss an episode by following us anywhere you get podcasts. Cheers, everybody!