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What does the scientific research say about productivity and IQ?

Most people would assume that intelligent people accomplish more in their lives ( ie. are more productive) but I have never heard of any evidence to support this.

Perhaps there is research to the contrary? ( Do people with High IQ's procrastinate more? )


Update: Interesting medical journal article:Why it is 'better' to be reliable but dumb than smart but slapdash

Update 2: Here is a paper says the opposite.
This article provides evidence that g has pervasive utility in work settings because it is essen- tially the ability to deal with cognitive complexity, in particular, with complex information processing.

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Interesting article indeed, very related to Adam's answer. In regards to their conclusion: "Indeed, those 'gifted' with high Conscientiousness are in some ways even luckier than the very intelligent-because there are more jobs for reliable and hard-working people (even if they are relatively 'dumb') than for smart people with undependable personalities." I think that holds true when the person's satisfied with dedicating their life to further someone else's goals and earning their paychecks--which about resounds with high conscientiousness. So I wouldn't put it over intelligence and openness. –  Vic Goldfeld Dec 5 '11 at 18:25
    
IQ is actually a really poor indicator of intelligence. But I find that a lot of people with PhDs are actually incredibly unproductive. They rarely procrastinate, but this means that they don't look for ways to do things more efficiently. They pay too much attention to detail. They can get obsessed about little things that don't matter, willingly putting in a year of research for a 3% optimization. Whereas a 'dumb/lazy' person looks for a shortcut. –  Muz Dec 2 '12 at 8:33

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

According to research done at Bell Labs, there is no correlation between intelligence and productivity.

Based on a wide range of cognitive and social measures, from standard tests for IQ to personality inventories, there’s little meaningful difference in the innate abilities of star performers and average workers.

Rather, the real differences turn up in the strategic ways top performers do their jobs. While it’s impossible to get in the door of Bell Labs without technical competence and high-level reasoning abilities, these cognitive skills don’t guarantee success. But specific work strategies like taking initiative and networking make for star performance and are trainable.

Reference: How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers by Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan

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Some years ago I read that one standard deviation in IQ (~15 IQ points) increased productivity by 1.6 times. For the last 5 years I've been trying to find this source and would greatly appreciate a referral to it. While I'm sure attitudes and other "social" factors affect productivity of the more intelligent person, the same can be said for the less intelligent person (resentment, frustration, etc.). The 1.6 factor has, subjectively, been my experience in the business world. Not only do less intelligent people perform tasks more slowly, they learn more slowly, make more mistakes, require more supervision, are less strategically oriented, and generally resent the fact that their opinions are less valued by co-workers and they are not rewarded as well as others. In fact, there must be some point on the IQ scale when an organization, because of errors, disruptions, required supervision, salary, and general productivity is actually loosing money by retaining the less intelligent person. Needless to say, I would like to read any studies addressing this question as even if this point is an IQ of 75, there are tens of millions of Americans who fall below this level and are costing more than they are contributing.

Finally, I smell the not to subtle whiff of political correctness in the implication that "dumb" people are more conscientious than the intelligent--a balancing out of qualities with disabilities because, of course, "we're all created equal."

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Hi Pete, I think you are right that high IQ people learn things faster. There seems to be some studies listed here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Adam Jan 2 '13 at 13:49

I may have found some weak evidence that they are negatively correlated. IE. intelligent people are maybe less productive if career success is used as a proxy for productivity.

First Conscientiousness is negatively correlated with intelligence:

Recent studies have also observed that intelligence is negatively correlated with Conscientiousness (Furnham et al., under review; Moutafi et al., 2003; Moutafi, Furnham, & Crump, under review; Moutafi et al., under review)

Why is Conscientiousness negatively correlated with intelligence?

What is Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is the trait of being painstaking and careful, or the quality of acting according to the dictates of one's conscience. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement. It is an aspect of what has traditionally been called character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable. When taken to an extreme, they may also be workaholics, perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior. People who are low on conscientiousness are not necessarily lazy or immoral, but they tend to be more laid back, less goal oriented, and less driven by success.

Second: Conscientiousness is best known predictor of career success. (in terms of big 5)
I think that there are many studies to this effect, but I found this one:

The Big Five Personality Traits and Individual Job Performance Growth Trajectories in Maintenance and Transitional Job Stages

Only conscientiousness predicted performance growth.

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What this really seems to be saying is rather common-sense: bright kids have to study less to pass their exams, and thus grow up to become less disciplined. I really appreciate the links to the research however! –  Vic Goldfeld Dec 4 '11 at 22:58
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Good summary Vic. I would add that being disciplined is the key to success. So Smart people may be less disciplined and disciplined people are more successful (productive) –  Adam Dec 5 '11 at 16:17

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