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Human intelligence is marvelously complex. For centuries, researchers and philosophers have attempted to define it. In the modern era, researchers have relied on Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests to measure both what people know and how quickly they can solve problems using reasoning.

But IQ tests alone don’t necessarily account for the full range of your thinking abilities. IQ tests don’t always predict success in school, life, or business, either.

So, in recent decades, researchers have expanded the definition of intelligence to include a wider set of skills.

In the last 20 years, the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has emerged as a way to describe another set of thinking skills. Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to recognize and regulate emotion, and to use social awareness in problem-solving.

Together, IQ tests and EQ tests may give researchers a fuller picture of human intelligence.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at both forms of intelligence, and whether one is more important than the other.

Your IQ usually refers to your intellectual ability. Some of the most common elements of your IQ include your ability to:

  • use logic to solve problems
  • plan and strategize
  • understand abstract ideas
  • learn and adapt to change
  • grasp and use language

Your emotional quotient (EQ) generally refers to your ability to sense emotion in yourself and in other people. It also refers to how you use that awareness to guide your behavior. In general, if you have a high EQ, you may find it easier to:

There’s a lot of debate about the accuracy of IQ and EQ measurements.

Many factors can influence outcomes on tests, which leads some people to question whether these tests really measure innate abilities. For instance, the following factors may all have a bearing on test results:

The most commonly used IQ tests include:

  • the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
  • the Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities
  • the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
  • the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test

These IQ tests typically measure two different intelligence abilities, known as:

  • Crystallized intelligence. This type of intelligence is based on your verbal ability and knowledge and usually improves as you get older.
  • Fluid intelligence. This is your ability to reason, think abstractly, and solve problems without pre-existing knowledge.

Other IQ tests, such as the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence and Raven’s Progressive Matrices, attempt to measure intelligence without taking verbal ability into account.

Emotional intelligence is often measured by tests such as:

  • the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Tests
  • the Situational Tests of Emotional Management
  • the Situational Tests of Emotional Understanding
  • the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy

These tests sometimes differentiate between your:

  • Ability intelligence. How well you solve problems using social and emotional skillsets.
  • Trait intelligence. Your self-reported analysis of your own typical behaviors.

Many EQ tests rank your abilities in five areas:

Some EQ and IQ tests can only be administered in professional settings and others are commercially available.

Historically, scores on IQ tests have been linked to better academic performance, higher salaries, and better job performance. Newer studies have raised questions about those conclusions, though.

Emotional intelligence has been linked to job success and more satisfying relationships. There’s also evidence that emotional intelligence may help you handle stress. A 2019 research review concluded that emotional intelligence can help you recover more quickly from acute stress.

Both kinds of intelligence can dramatically affect your quality of life and your accomplishments. Understanding and developing both kinds of intelligence may be your best bet for increasing your odds of success in all areas of your life.

Again, there’s some debate among scientists on this point. Some argue that IQ can be improved. Other researchers say there’s no accurate way to measure whether your basic intelligence has actually improved after an intervention of some kind.

While it’s hard to say exactly how big an impact these steps will have, here are some strategies to consider if you want to boost your EQ and IQ scores.

Build your problem-solving skills

Consider working with a coach or taking online courses to boost your problem-solving skills.

In 2019, a group of researchers re-analyzed data from an experimental program conducted in the late 1980s. They found that after students received training in creative problem-solving once a week for 3 years, they gained around 15 points on IQ tests, compared to their scores before the program.

Emory University, Harvard Extension School, and University of Minnesota all offer courses in creative problem-solving.

Or if you prefer to practice on your own, you might consider some reading on the subject. Michael Michalko’s “Thinkertoys” is a popular choice for learning creative thinking techniques.

Try workplace EI training

A number of studies have shown that when co-workers participate in EI-related training programs, it may help improve their:

  • teamwork
  • conflict management abilities
  • job performance
  • general job satisfaction


Reading gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the experiences of other people — whether those people really exist or are fictional characters.

Studies show that reading may help improve your social thinking skills, which researchers think is important for building empathy.

Practice relational framing activities

Researchers have found that when people practice finding relationships between ideas and objects, their scores on measures of general intelligence tend to improve.

Relational framing activities include things like:

  • comparing and contrasting images and ideas
  • sequencing events into before/after patterns
  • analyzing opposites
  • finding relationships between unrelated images

In a small 2016 study, students who practiced activities like these had a significant jump in their scores on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

While there’s not yet a lot of research that defines or measures these concepts, some researchers think people may have other types of intelligence, including spiritual intelligence (SQ) and physical intelligence (PQ).

What is spiritual intelligence?

Spiritual intelligence often includes an awareness of:

  • meaning
  • adherence to personal values
  • gratitude
  • faith or devotion
  • commitment to ethics
  • expression of compassion

Some studies have shown that spiritual intelligence training may improve health outcomes and job satisfaction in nursing care settings.

What is physical intelligence?

In the groundbreaking 1983 book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences,” Howard Gardner proposed the idea of physical intelligence, or a range of abilities connected to the body.

Physical intelligence is often described as an awareness of:

  • posture
  • breathing
  • strength
  • energy levels
  • coordination

Gardner’s view is that people with high physical intelligence may learn through movement and physical interactions.

While some educators and psychologists question whether PQ is a separate kind of intelligence, others say there’s some neurological evidence to support the idea.

Intelligence has many factors, some of which are connected to your ability to reason and others to your ability to feel emotion.

IQ tests measure your ability to solve problems, use logic, and grasp or communicate complex ideas. EQ tests measure your ability to recognize emotion in yourself and others, and to use that awareness to guide your decisions.

Both kinds of intelligence can influence your job performance, relationships, and overall well-being. Understanding and developing both kinds of intelligence may be the key to success in many areas of your life.