The relationship between intelligence and social skills
How would you describe a nerd? As a person that is incredibly smart, but has no social skills at all? That’s what most of us do, and that’s the image many films bring across: very intelligent people lack social skills, whereas socially highly competent persons are usually not all that smart. In other words, IQ (intelligence quotient) is inversely proportional to EQ (emotional quotient). However, science now seems to question this notion.
Researcher Aron Barbey from the University of Illinois and his colleagues Roberto Colom and Jordan Grafman conducted an extensive study with Vietnam veterans that had suffered various kinds of brain injury. The researchers had their participants complete tests assessing general intelligence and emotional intelligence and found both to be linked. So when general intelligence went up, emotional intelligence did as well. They backed up their findings with brain scans: injuries in certain brain regions like for example the frontal and parietal cortex impaired both general and emotional intelligence. Thus, the authors see the reason for the positive relationship between general and emotional intelligence in a shared network of neurons that are involved in both domains. They also reason that interacting with others requires applying cognitive abilities because we need to “navigate the social world and understand others”.
The original article was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. There is a detailed outline of the study and conclusions that can be drawn from it in the Scientific American.
Thus, a high level of intelligence does not seem to imply a lack of social skills, but it rather seems to imply a high level of social skills. True? Well, one might have to be careful with such an interpretation. The patients the researchers worked with in their study are people who have suffered brain injury and who have, due to this injury, certain cognitive impairments. The conclusion that can certainly be drawn from the study is that some basic general intelligence might be necessary for being emotionally intelligent. However, we do not know anything about the full spectrum of intelligence. For this, other studies with healthy participants would be required, including highly intelligent and highly socially skilled people.
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