06 November 2007

IQ, Executive Function, and Emotional Intelligence

There are many components of a person's life that will contribute to his success--or lack of success. Three of the most important ingredients for success are IQ, executive function, and emotional intelligence. IQ is moderately correlated with executive function, and executive function can be very highly correlated with emotional intelligence--depending upon how the two ideas are defined.

You would expect that children with above average IQ, executive function, and emotional intelligence, would be more successful in school, socially, and career wise.
In this study 141 healthy children between the ages of three and five years took a battery of psychological tests that measured their IQs and executive functioning. Researchers found that a child whose IQ and executive functioning were both above average was three times more likely to succeed in math than a kid who simply had a high IQ.

"[The fact] that executive function, even in children this young, is significantly related to early math performance suggests that if we can improve executive function, we can improve their academic performance," says Adele Diamond, professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University of British Columbia.

Improving IQ, executive function, and emotional/social intelligence would seem to be worthy pursuits of the education/child care professions. But how amenable are these "metrics" to improvement through training and education?

James Flynn is one optimistic researcher of human intelligence, who believes that "IQ gaps" can be narrowed (or eliminated), and that success in life should not be held hostage to an IQ test score.
Once you break intelligence down into its autonomous components, many things become clear. For example, the Nation’s Report Card shows that today’s children are ahead of their parents in reading at early ages and then the gains fade away by the age of 17. How is that possible? The children are doing much better on heavily g loaded IQ tests like the WISC at all ages. Should not brighter people be able to read adult novels better?....
Cato Unbound

Here is a short list of executive functions:

  1. * planning for the future and strategic thinking
  2. * the ability to inhibit or delay responding
  3. * initiating behavior, and
  4. * shifting between activities flexibly

Here are some components of emotional intelligence:

  1. Delay Gratification: Take right action even though there may not be an immediate reward.
  2. Prioritize: Bring to the forefront of your mind to a “checklist” of what is more important so that you can weigh decisions and actions.
  3. Manage Feeling: Use the simple feelings to act.. not react.
  4. Optimism: Recognize that you have choices, that you can make a difference, that you are an important part of a living whole.
  5. Accountability: Hold yourself to high standards and do what is right, even when it seems hopeless
Emotional Intelligence

What are the chances of being able to increase IQ, EF, or EI? Here, many people stumble upon the concept of "heritability." When researchers state that IQ is up to 80% heritable, executive function is up to 99% heritable, and emotional intelligence is also significantly inherited, many people despair of ever escaping the "gene trap."

People should indeed take inheritance and genetics seriously when looking at the effects of inherited factors on societal success and prosperity. But not at the expense of optimistic creativity in designing training and educational systems to maximise the realisation of "potential talents" that everyone possesses in varying amounts. Children cannot raise themselves, they cannot carry themselves to mastery on their own. But it is clear that our current system of government education and university indoctrination is not properly developing and refining the innate talents of youth.

Educational alternatives are important--from the earliest ages up through university and adult education. Fortunately, more people in positions of influence--although outside the government/education/industrial complex--are becoming aware of the critical problems and opportunities in this area. While the educational system of the US appears mired in a quagmire of political inbreeding and theoretical "dead-endism", fruitful ideas are being generated from the outside. Outside the sanctioned edu-establishment, and outside the US itself.

It is important not to get stuck on "g", or IQ, as the be all and end all of life success determinants. But it is also important to understand that even with EF and EI, genetics and heredity play a significant role. We absolutely must face the reality of the genetics of human behaviour and potential, but we must also understand that we are nowhere close to being able to optimise the potential of all students. The goal is optimal performance, not the impossibility of equal performance.

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Blogger Michael Anissimov said...

EI is pseudoscientific, pop-pysch nonsense. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence#Criticism_of_the_theoretical_foundation_of_EI

Tuesday, 06 November, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Perhaps you're right, Michael. Certainly executive function is validated by many approaches in neuroscience. Emotional intelligence needs more polish and rigour, certainly.

Wednesday, 07 November, 2007  

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