What’s more important in determining life success—book smarts or street smarts? This question gets at the heart of an important debate contrasting the relative importance of cognitive intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ).
Proponents of the so-called ‘book smarts’ might suggest that it is our IQ that plays the critical role in determining how well people fair in life. Those who advocate for the importance of what might be called ‘street smarts’ would instead suggest that EQ is even more important.
So, which is it?
The Difference Between IQ and EQ
How are IQ and EQ measured and tested? Let’s start by defining the two terms in order to understand what they mean and how they differ. IQ, or intelligence quotient, is a number derived from a standardized intelligence test. On the original IQ tests, scores were calculated by dividing the individual’s mental age by his or her chronological age and then multiplying that number by 100.
So, a child with a mental age of 15 and a chronological age of 10 would have an IQ of 150. Today, scores on most IQ tests are calculated by comparing the test taker’s score to the average scores of other people in the same age group.
IQ represents abilities such as:
- Visual and spatial processing
- Knowledge of the world
- Fluid reasoning
- Working memory and short-term memory
- Quantitative reasoning
EQ, on the other hand, is a measure of a person’s level of emotional intelligence. This refers to a person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate, and express emotions. Researchers such as John Mayer and Peter Salovey as well as writers like Daniel Goleman have helped shine a light on emotional intelligence, making it a hot topic in areas ranging from business management to education.
EQ is centered on abilities such as:
- Identifying emotions
- Evaluating how others feel
- Controlling one’s own emotions
- Perceiving how others feel
- Using emotions to facilitate social communication
- Relating to others
Since the 1990s, emotional intelligence has made the journey from a semi-obscure concept found in academic journals to a popularly recognized term. Today, you can buy toys that claim to help boost a child’s emotional intelligence or enroll your kids in social and emotional learning (SEL) programs designed to teach emotional intelligence skills. In some schools in the United States, social and emotional learning is even a curriculum requirement.
Is IQ or EQ More Important?
At one point in time, IQ was viewed as the primary determinant of success. People with high IQs were assumed to be destined for a life of accomplishment and achievement and researchers debated whether intelligence was the product of genes or the environment (the old nature versus nurture debate).
However, some critics began to realize that not only was high intelligence no guarantee for success in life, it was also perhaps too narrow a concept to fully encompass the wide range of human abilities and knowledge.
IQ is still recognized as an important element of success, particularly when it comes to academic achievement. People with high IQs typically do well in school, often earn more money, and tend to be healthier in general. But today experts recognize it is not the only determinate of life success. Instead, it is part of a complex array of influences that includes emotional intelligence among other things.
The concept of emotional intelligence has had a strong impact in a number of areas, including the business world. Many companies now mandate emotional intelligence training and utilize EQ tests as part of the hiring process.
Research has found that individuals with strong leadership potential also tend to be more emotionally intelligent, suggesting that a high EQ is an important quality for business leaders and managers to have.
For example, one insurance company discovered that EQ could play a vital role in sales success. Sales agents who ranked lower on emotional intelligence abilities such as empathy, initiative, and self-confidence were found to sell policies with an average premium of $54,000. For comparison, those agents who ranked highly on measures of EQ sold policies worth an average of $114,000.
Emotional abilities can also influence the choices that consumers make when confronted with buying decisions. Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has found that people would rather deal with a person that they trust and like rather than someone they do not, even if that means paying more for an inferior product.
Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learned?
So you might be wondering if emotional intelligence is so important, can it be taught or strengthened? According to one meta-analysis that looked at the results of social and emotional learning programs, the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes.
The study found that approximately 50 percent of kids enrolled in SEL programs had better achievement scores and almost 40 percent showed improved grade-point-averages. These programs were also linked to lowered suspension rates, increased school attendance, and reduced disciplinary problems.
Life success is a result of many factors. Both IQ and EQ undoubtedly play roles in influencing your overall success, as well as things such as health, wellness, and happiness. Rather than focusing on which factors might have a more dominant influence, the greatest benefit may lie in learning to improve skills in multiple areas.
In addition to strengthening certain cognitive abilities, such as your memory and mental focus, you can also acquire new social and emotional skills that will serve you well in many different areas of your life.
For more information about the importance of EQ in your child’s development, contact Anel Annandale at 083 711 5267 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anel Annandale is a prominent Educational Psychologist with a passion for early childhood development and a special interest in neuropsychology.
She is experienced in the field and has established herself as an expert, often appearing on television shows such as Exspresso. She is also available as a guest speaker at relevant events and functions.