Recent studies expose unforeseen links between mental training and increases in IQ scores, proving that it is possible to achieve measureable improvements in cognitive intelligence through practice. Improvements in genetically influenced human characteristics such as weight and flexibility have long been known to be possible through training and practice, but cognitive intelligence has been thought to be static in nature, completely predetermined by a mixture of heredity and environment.
Psychologists have turned this perception upside down with new research into the fluidity of intelligence, identifying implications for performance training and self-improvement in general.
Working Memory and EQ Tests
Fluid intelligence, or the ability to solve new types of problems and make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, is the largest contributing factor to IQ scores, according to The New York Times. Fluid intelligence, in turn, is affected by what psychologists term “working memory.” The ability to strengthen fluid intelligence through working-memory exercises has implications for the growing field of Emotional Intelligence, in addition to IQ studies. Emotional intelligence competencies are tied to trainable behaviors that can be strengthened and reinforced like any other habit.
EQ was originally suspected to be just as static as IQ was believed to be. Research now shows that it is possible to train and improve cognitive EQ competencies such as self-awareness and empathy, which can result in changed habits and more effective social interactions. Because of this, individuals and organizations are beginning to appreciate not only the popularity of emotional intelligence training, but the practicality of forming new neural connections that result in positive behavioral change.
Programs such as TRACOM’s Behavioral EQ course are examples of a third-generation emotional intelligence training programs that shift the focus away from conceptual understanding to an emphasis on personal development and practical application. Behavioral EQ helps course participants to change behavioral habits related to their social interactions with others, on the job or in other settings.
Breaking Habits with Emotional Intelligence
It is a common misconception that behavior and habits stem from the results people experience in life. A positive experience at work can lead to more cordial social interactions and less stress, for example. Research proves that the opposite can also hold true. For example, teaching yourself to interact more cordially at work and manage stress more effectively can actually lead to more positive experiences in the workplace, beginning a cycle of positive reinforcement.
This is true of emotional intelligence competencies, as well. Behavioral EQ characteristics such as self-confidence, influence over others and optimism can be misperceived as solely the results of external factors, when in fact an intentional improvement in any of these areas, independent of external influence, can have a powerful effect on the same external factors. Behavioral EQ characteristics such as self-confidence, conscientiousness, and innovativeness may seem to be hard-wired in the brain by the time one reaches adulthood, but are in fact trainable and improvable traits that can influence the quality of life, to say nothing of their positive impact on job performance and overall success in daily endeavors.
An article from Harvard Business Review points out that happiness resulting from an external stimulus, such as a reward, lingers for a much shorter period of time than that resulting from intentional effort, which can often cause positive external stimuli to emerge, instituting a cycle of positive reinforcement. All of this strengthens the value of emotional intelligence training in the workplace, proving that intentional habit-building exercises can supersede natural tendencies.