Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is EQ cool?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression is that the notion of IQ makes people feel a little uncomfortable, even before we start talking about gender or race. Part of this I don't really get because we all have had enough experience with people who are much smarter than us in various ways to know that there is something to talk of smartness. But another impression I get is that people much prefer this newfangled notion of emotional intelligence ("measured" as emotional quotient or EQ). Emotional intelligence is increasingly important for getting ahead in life so we should focus on this rather than IQ. But if I'm right about this why doesn't it make people a little uncomfortable too? It is after all just as unevenly distributed, which we know because we all went to school. I can't think why we should prefer one to the other, but I'll have a crack.

  • We think that EQ will compensate for IQ, think semi-autistic computer nerds earning millions in Silicon Valley. I don't buy it because too many people are deficient in both, and increasingly Silicon Valley is populated by people who not only blessed with excess IQ and EQ but are also beautiful.
  • EQ is more vague and difficult to measure, which can lend itself to warmer, fuzzier interpretations (the inner beauty of people translates into a good EQ score somehow).
  • EQ is simply free of racist, sexist baggage and it is unlikely to develop any (in the mainstream at least).
  • We have a deep seated antipathy to smart people. Witness persecution of people who were able to make money by facilitating exchange without "producing" anything (meaning anything physical), like Jewish money lenders or the guy in prison who can "get you things".

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Tracy said...

think EQ is a useful concept because people are starting to realise that to be a successful person brains isn't everything. Certain professions, may be limited to you, but you could still make your life and career a success. On the other hand if you were really smart but had a severe social disfunction, you'd probably end up in jail.

Somehow, EQ is less intimidating because we think that if us ordinary people read the books we may be able to develop some of these qualities that will make us a success. It feels more empowering.

But, as you said, the reality is that some people really were born with weird personalities, and for others they were simply damaged by the environment, which seems as random as being born with high or low intelligence.

This reminds me of the freewill question...