Issue Two Online Extra: IQ vs. EQ. In the digital age is Emotional Intelligence more important than a high IQ? By Jo Maddocks, JCA Global

This article is part of the Online Extra section of Issue Two which you can read here.

Please note: This article was originally published on the original version of The New Idealist online in August 2013 before being added to this newly created site in July 2015.

Change in the ‘digital age’ is often seen as exponential, led by advances in technology, access to information, increased globalisation and more virtual communication. However, this typically comes with a high human toll as employees are expected to be more resilient, adaptable and responsive to changing circumstances. Such demands on organisations and employees have led to the growing need for Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) alongside cognitive intelligence (IQ).

Since 1995, when Daniel Goleman published his seminal book; Emotional Intelligence, why it can matter more than IQ, there has been much debate over the relative value of EI versus IQ. However, this is a spurious debate, rather like suggesting that the brain is more important than the body, they are both of equal importance and interdependent though less attention has been paid to EI until recently.

The good news is that we can measure EI, it can be developed (more so than IQ) and it predicts and enables performance which makes it a particularly attractive area for organisations to invest in.

In essence, EI is largely about how an individual manages their cognitive intelligence. How a person is feeling at a particular moment in time may dramatically affect their cognitive performance. A person’s ability to think clearly, make sound decisions, analyse information and all the other IQ related areas, can vary dramatically day to day and moment to moment.

When a person feels anxious, stressed or hurried their cortical functioning can be severely impaired (Thompson, 2010), but when they are relaxed, alert and present in the moment they can think more clearly, learn more easily, have more creative insights and ‘see the wood from the trees’. Therefore enabling a person to become more aware of how their feelings affect their thinking and how to manage their emotional state will enable them to make better use of their cognitive intelligence. This is highlighted by the example of the fear response activating the fight/flight/freeze mechanism that blocks a person from accessing their cognitive intellectual thinking.

One problem with the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is that it is measured in isolation and out of context. IQ is tested under standardised conditions to assess an individual’s maximum performance rather than their typical performance. EI however is more relevant to how a person will perform in their day to day life rather than in controlled conditions. Having a high IQ does not necessarily translate into higher performance unless it is backed up by high EI.

A forty year follow-up study of eighty Ph.D. students at Berkley University found that social and emotional abilities were four times more important than IQ in predicting professional success and prestige (Feist & Barron, 1996). If a person does not manage their emotions then it is far more difficult for them to maximise use of their thinking, and therefore their potential IQ.

A study by Duckworth (2005) found that children’s exam results were correlated twice as strongly with their self-discipline (emotional control) than with their IQ scores. Measuring IQ alone has limited developmental value for the individual, but when combined with EI, becomes a far more potent combination for enhancing clear and accurate thinking.

A particular feature of the digital age has been the growth of virtual rather than face to face communication. This creates particular challenges in being able to read the intentions and feelings of others with less visual or physical feedback. This in turn requires people to be more open (verbally or in writing) about how they are feeling, and to be more skilled at reading other people.

An individual can learn how to manage their emotions and therefore their thinking, as well as become aware of other people’s feelings and therefore how to get the best out of others. With the demands of today’s digital age, organisations can help individuals to develop their EI by creating the right work environments and developing their people. This is turn will enable individuals to become effective workers and leaders and enable organisations to succeed.

About the author

Jo Maddocks is Director of Product Development with JCA (Occupational Psychologists) who are global leaders in the application of EI in business. He is the author of the Emotional Intelligence Profile (EIP) and EI leadership development programmes.


  1. Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York. Bantam Books.
  1. Thompson, H. (2010). The stress effect. Why smart leaders make dumb decisions. Jossey Bass.
  1. Feist, G.J. and Barron, F. (1996). Emotional intelligence and academic intelligence in career and life success. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Society, San Francisco, June.
  1. Duckwoth, Angela Lee and Martin E. P. Seligman. “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents.” Psychological Science 16, no. 12 (2005): 939-44. <> [27 March 2011].



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Issue Seven: The New Future Issue (Annual Special Edition)
Issue Six: The Autism Issue
Issue Five: The Doomsday Edition (Extreme Weather Special)
Issue Four: The Issue We’re All Talking About (Guest Edited by the actress Jodhi May)
Issue Three: Has Obama been corrupted by the machine?
Issue Two: IQ VS EQ – Is Emotional Intelligence what you need to succeed in the digital age?
Issue One: Downwardly Mobile? Will the next generation find it harder to reach the next level?

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