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Indeterminate Heuristics
IQ is a Relatively Meaningless Number Consumed by Egotistical Narcissists
by Dale Asberry
April 19, 2004
It has little direct correlation to success at anything (except IQ tests), yet so many people give it weight!



Sometimes I pan through my memories like a camera over a landscape and suddenly these seemingly unrelated thoughts come together in a flash of insight. Many people question my insight, and when I'm put on the spot, I can't point to any good reason to deflect their objections. Frustratingly, I'm at an impasse with the disbeliever(s) -- I have all of these connections at my disposal which the objectors cannot "see". Some of the disbelievers don't have the knowledge to make the insight... that is easily resolved by giving them references to explore on their own. The much larger group of disbelievers, however, are afflicted with a more insidious problem - unwillingness to make the connection. What I'm getting at is that few people are able accept new ideas due to their overwhelming emotional attachment to their old ideas. In other words, no matter how intelligent you are, it is the poorly understood (and regarded) emotional part that makes all the difference. Hence, the observation of all those very personable people that are wildly successful in life/business/love that were never academic stand-outs.


First, a little background on Narcissus. I particularly like the author's interpretation of the myth:
On the one hand there is rapture at the sight of a non object, simple product of the eyes' mistake; on the other, there is the power of the image, "what you seek is nowhere. The vision is only shadow, only reflection, lacking any substance.
Second, I'll touch briefly on IQ research.

Yale professor Sternberg writes in American Psychologist in Nov. 1995:
"Between 75% and 96% of the variance in real world criteria such as job performance cannot be accounted for by individual differences in intelligence test scores."
Howard Gardner, Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University from his book, Intelligence Reframed:
Sternberg noted that these latter forms of 'practical intelligence' are extremely important for success in our society, and yet are rarely, if ever, taught explicitly or tested systematically....And he has found that people's ability to deal effectively with novel information or to adapt to diverse contexts can be differentiated from their success with standard IQ test-style problems. (These findings should come as no surprise to those who have seen high-IQ people flounder outside of a school setting or those who, at a high school or college reunion, have found their scholastically average or below-average peers to be the richest or more powerful alumni at the event.)

Alternative Perspectives

Now, to the point of this article. Daniel Goleman Ph.D., author of the landmark 1995 best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, has this to say:
"I found that 67 percent - two out of three - of the abilities deemed essential for effective performance were emotional competencies. Compared to IQ and expertise, emotional competence mattered twice as much. This held true across all categories of jobs, and in all kinds of organizations."
A number of resources exist on this topic, my favorite is the 6 Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network. Their name comes from an interesting emotional twist on the physiological science behind emotions:
In her usual style, Anabel "research says" Jensen (our President) was sharing some of the latest research on emotional reactions, and said, "it takes around six seconds for those molecules of emotion to get absorbed back into your body after you've had a reaction."
In touchy-feely terms, this means that:
"It takes six seconds to manage anger. It takes six seconds to create compassion. It takes six seconds to change the world."
My pragmatic observations have led me to notice that most people will respond well within six seconds, especially when they disagree. In addition, the six seconds principle only applies to those people aware of their emotional state and then choose not to react. Most people will unknowingly choose actions that continue the same emotional state. Unfortunately, this essentially blinds their cognitive awareness to any higher level functioning such as rational thought. (I can't find the references, but there is a good deal of research showing how the amygdala - the brain's emotion center - can hijack rational thought.)

Next Steps

The good news is that we have the ability in us to consciously intercede and change our emotional reactions. Six Seconds has an interesting model to help guide in the search for emotional awareness: For anyone interested in learning more about these topics, I strongly suggest visiting Six Seconds - they are a great starting point for discovering more about EQ/EI.


Research conducted in the last 10-15 years is starting to show what many have seen anecdotally... IQ/intelligence is a weak factor in determining success. In many cases, the chemical underpinnings have also been discovered. It is time to recognize and move past our archaic understanding of human intelligence and factor in the impact that our strong emotional responses have in coloring our thought processes.

And, for all you conservative, hard-skills nay-sayers: I doubt your IQ is as high as mine and that's why you're unable to "get" this!


Narcissus. Outline of the myth:

Research Findings on Career Success:

The 6 Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network:

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About the Blogger

R. Dale Asberry been hacking since 1978, professionally since 1990. He's certified in Java 1.1 and has a four digit MCP number. He discovered Jini at the 2000 JavaOne and has been building incredibly cool, dynamic, distributed architectures ever since! Over time, he's discovered several principles that have contributed to his success - they are the Princples of: Enabling Others, Simplicity, No Complaining, Least Work, Least Surprise, Least Damage, and "It Just Works".

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2004 Dale Asberry. All rights reserved.

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