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DUBNER: So — sorry, I’ve forgotten the actual question.

*      *      *

DUCKWORTH: I’m Angela Duckworth.

DUBNER: I’m Stephen Dubner.

DUCKWORTH + DUBNER: And you’re listening to No Stupid Questions.

Today on the show: How important is emotional intelligence, really?

DUCKWORTH: You’re having a performance review, and the person that you’re giving the feedback to breaks out in tears and starts crying uncontrollably. What do you do next?

DUBNER: Slap them hard across the face.

*      *      *

DUBNER: Angela, do you care about politics at all?

DUCKWORTH: Not at all.

DUBNER: Okay, good. That’s two of us. I have a question that’s kind of about politics, but I think it plays into your strengths beautifully. And the question is as follows: We have a new mayor in New York City. His name is Eric Adams. And he has said that, as he assembles his administration, the No. 1 criterion he’s relying on to make appointments is emotional intelligence. And my gut reaction was that it’s probably a great idea, but my question for you is: Is emotional intelligence, A) a truly real, quantifiable quality?

DUCKWORTH: Like, is it a thing?

DUBNER: Is it a thing that can be measured and relied upon? And, B) assuming the answer to A is “yes,” is it so good that it should be the No. 1 hiring criterion?

DUCKWORTH: Okay. I’m going to punt a little bit on whether this should be the No. 1 criterion, but I do want to say that emotional intelligence is a thing. It’s been studied for a few decades, now. Peter Salovey, who I believe is president of Yale, but was a psychology professor at the time that he created a measure of emotional intelligence— 

DUBNER: Oh, my goodness. You’ve just answered all the questions right there. You create the measure of emotional intelligence, and you go on to become the president of Yale. I guess it works.

DUCKWORTH: Yes. Well, believe me, there are many psychologists who study things that they don’t have. In this case, it sounds like Peter Salovey, who I don’t know personally, studied something that presumably — university president — that he does have. So, E.I., or emotional intelligence, is defined as an ability — not a tendency, but a capacity, something that you can or can’t do, or, you know, varying degrees in between. And it has four components. First, that you should be able to perceive emotions. Second, that you should be able to use emotions — especially to your benefit, in terms of improving your thinking. The third is that you should be able to understand emotions. And the fourth is that you should be able to manage emotions. So: perceive, use, understand, manage.

DUBNER: Let me make a slight left turn here and just ask about you: How high is your emotional intelligence?

DUCKWORTH: This is a trick question, because people self-reporting their own intelligences or their own abilities—

DUBNER: Very reliable, correct?

DUCKWORTH: Well, it tends not to be correlated with their actual abilities, for somewhat obvious reasons. But, anyway, let me break down emotional intelligence into those four domains, and try to grade myself on them. So, the first one I said was “perceiving emotion.” You see somebody, and you look at their facial expression, you look at their body posture, you hear the tone of their voice, and you’re trying to guess: What mood is this person in? So you might give me the MSCEIT, which is the most widely used test of emotional intelligence. And in the MSCEIT, on this dimension, there are literally pictures of faces and actually, interestingly, just scenes — like, scenes of the beach. And you’re trying to guess the mood. And the way it is graded is that they have experts and also consensus grading: What do most people see in this picture? So, anyway, on this one, I think I’d do pretty well.

DUBNER: So, if I see a beach scene with, let’s say, two parents and two kids building sandcastles, I’m thinking, “The father is about to flip out. And he’s going to murder his wife and bury his kids.” That would make me emotionally intelligent, or emotionally unintelligent?

DUCKWORTH: That would make you psychopathic. No, it’s actually not that kind of test though, Stephen. You don’t have to, like, come up with a story. You probably would be getting a multiple choice. Like: Which mood describes this picture?

DUBNER: Murderous.

DUCKWORTH: Or: Which mood do you think this person is in? And then you would, you know, not presumably score well, because that’s probably not what experts and crowds would say. I actually think, Stephen, a journalist like you — I think you would score very high on “perceive,” as I think I probably would.

DUBNER: Can I tell you? I took a little online emotional intelligence test in anticipation of this conversation.

DUCKWORTH: You did? Was it, like, lots of faces?

DUBNER: No. It was a really quick, cheap one, but I came out— Well, do you want to guess where I came out?

DUCKWORTH: I’m guessing you came out, like, top 20 percent, at least. Top 10 percent?

DUBNER: You’d be wrong. I came out as slightly above average.


DUBNER: I will say this. I was very, very honest in my answers.

DUCKWORTH: Was it self-report? Like, you just answered things upon reflection? Or was it an actual test?

DUBNER: Yeah, like, “I do not become defensive when criticized — strongly disagree/strongly agree.” “I can stay calm under pressure — strongly disagree/ strongly agree.”

DUCKWORTH: Okay. I think questions like that are helpful for self-reflection, but the reason why these progenitors of the emotional intelligence scientific literature did not want to have a self-reflection/self-report test is: They felt like nobody would do that for I.Q. You wouldn’t be like, “How do you think you’d be able to solve right triangles?” It’s just like, “Here’s a right triangle. What’s the hypotenuse?” So, we should imagine that you’re taking the MSCEIT. I think you would come out well above average.

DUBNER: That is just the kind of thing that someone with high emotional intelligence would say to their friend who might not be so high on emotional intelligence.

DUCKWORTH: That’s true, but there is this second component of being emotionally intelligent, and that is being able to use information about emotions. And so there are tasks. For example — and this is from the MSCEIT website — “What mood might be helpful to feel when meeting your in-laws for the very first time?” So, Stephen, what mood would be helpful to meet Ellen’s parents for the very first time?

DUBNER: Well, I can tell you, the first time I met my beloved’s parents, it was a very interesting meeting. And one of the things that her father said that night — we were talking about this really interesting British writer/comedian/historian fellow. And my future father-in-law said to me that night, “Now, he would make a good son-in-law.” And I thought it was a hilarious thing to say.

DUCKWORTH: It is hilarious.

DUBNER: But he didn’t mean it funny.

DUCKWORTH: He meant it for realsies.

DUBNER: My future wife and my future mother-in-law were both horrified that he said that, but I respected him for saying what he was really thinking. He came to like me just fine. So — sorry, I’ve forgotten the actual question.

DUCKWORTH: The question was: What mood might be helpful?

DUBNER: What mood might be helpful? I would say, “kind.” Is that a mood? That’s not even a mood, is it?

DUCKWORTH: I don’t know if it’s quite a mood. I was thinking: “angry,” “sad,” “happy,” “proud,” “calm.”

DUBNER: I’m going to say yes to the positive ones.

DUCKWORTH: I would go with “curious.” I think curiosity is a great state to be in when meeting other people.

DUBNER: For instance, “Why do you think that he would be a good son-in-law, and I, perhaps, would not be?”

DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Like, “Oh, it’s so interesting that you say that.” You know, this is a hypothesis that George Loewenstein and I have been kicking around and trying to figure out how to test it, but: We believe that when you’re meeting other people, the best thing that you can be is curious about them. When I’m on the receiving end of that, and someone’s just like, “And then what happened? Oh my gosh. Tell me about your brother! Tell me about your sister!” Of course, I like them! But let me give you a question — or an example of this third component of emotional intelligence, and that is “understanding” emotions. Understanding what emotions are, where they come from, why we have them, having a vocabulary of emotion. Some people have a much more sophisticated understanding of emotions, some people less so. In this one, for example, I’ll just read from, again, the MSCEIT website: “A feeling of contempt most closely combines emotions of A) surprise and anger, B) anger and fear, C) anxiety and fear, D) disgust and anger.

DUBNER: I would say disgust and anger.

DUCKWORTH: Yes. So, this idea that you would be able to have the sophistication, in a way — the metacognitive sophistication. That’s the third component — “understand.”

DUBNER: That, to me, is a tricky one, because it suggests that to be good at emotional intelligence, one has to be a psychologist.

DUCKWORTH: Or, like, really verbally adroit —  that you would have all these nuanced words for different kinds of moods. But I do think what this is trying to get at is that some people have a more sophisticated understanding of emotions, what they do, their different flavors. And it kind of contributes to your overall emotional intelligence. Okay. Let me give you the fourth one. This is “management.” Emotionally intelligent people are good at managing emotions. Managing them in themselves, and also regulating them in other people. It’s like, you’re having a performance review, and the person that you’re giving the feedback to breaks out in tears and starts crying uncontrollably. What do you do next?

DUBNER: Slap them hard across the face.

DUCKWORTH: Not doing that, for example. So anyway, on these dimensions — perceive, use, understand, manage — I think I would do pretty well on “perceive.” I think I would do pretty well on “use.” I’d do very well on “understand.” I would do somewhere in the middle on “manage.”

DUBNER: You’ve told us in the past about your horrible temper, which I’m starting to really disbelieve.

DUCKWORTH: You just haven’t seen it yet. I’ve got to bring it out sometime.

DUBNER: You know, if you could bring it out the next time — if you could show up with your anger intact and just unleash it. You can unleash it on me!

DUCKWORTH: I’m getting better at it! You know what? But it’s still a weakness for me. I’m not somebody who’s going to be at the top of the scale on managing emotion in myself or others. I’ve met people who are good at it. I’m not that great at it.

DUBNER: So, it’s not yet at all obvious that if I’m, let’s say, the mayor of a large American city, and I’m looking to hire a great transportation secretary, an education secretary, police chief, and so on, that emotional intelligence should be the No. 1 thing that I’m concerned about. Can you persuade me that maybe it is a really, really useful measure?

DUCKWORTH: I mean, if you think about just what somebody has to do in the positions that he’s thinking about, obviously you do want people who are really good at perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotion, because there is so much emotion in all of the relationships that we have with other people. You know, emotional intelligence is highly related to empathy, and you want that in our leaders. It’s not hard to make a case for emotional intelligence.

DUBNER: So, I’m all for embracing emotional intelligence and putting it in the portfolio of metrics that we’re using to, let’s say, select an employee or, in this case, a city department head, or so on. But my knee-jerk skepticism would say, “Yeah, but can emotional intelligence make up for, let’s say, operational stupidity?” Like, I can see caring very much about the emotional intelligence of, let’s say, an education secretary, right? I really understand the need for high emotional intelligence there, because you’re dealing with an incredibly fluid, dynamic system with all kinds of people — teachers, students, their families. And yes, I want that education secretary to understand their emotions, and their struggles, and so on. But what about the transportation secretary? Wouldn’t I prefer operational competence and experience, as opposed to emotional intelligence?

DUCKWORTH: I don’t think there are any data that I can speak to that say, “For these occupations, emotional intelligence is more important/less important than technical skill.” These things, by the way, tend to be positively correlated. So, you don’t have to expect that, if somebody is high in emotional intelligence, they’re necessarily lower in technical skill or general intelligence. In fact, given the way things correlate, likely these people are going to also have those other things. It’s just not the same thing. I should just say that when there are studies of emotional intelligence predicting professional success, these studies tend to find that emotional intelligence is a positive predictor of doing well. So, it’s not that the mayor is wrong to be thinking about that.

DUBNER: Right. I could imagine a little bit of emotional intelligence going a long way. So, I’m advocating for that. On the other hand, I’m saying that— The mayor of New York City, really? Emotional intelligence? Yeah, that’s good. That should be in the portfolio, but No. 1?

DUCKWORTH: Yeah, I’m not sure I’m going to go with No. 1 for emotional intelligence, but, you know, then it would make me— If the mayor were here, ordering us around—

DUBNER: Not very emotionally intelligent to trash his No. 1 criterion.

DUCKWORTH: But he might say, “Well, what’s the better idea?”

DUBNER: So, what is a better idea? I kind of made a half-hearted argument for being very competent at execution and experience around transportation or policing. But what would be a better baseline criterion?

DUCKWORTH: Let’s think about things that might be on the podium with emotional intelligence and might supersede emotional intelligence. The most obvious thing — the foil for emotional intelligence — and the reason I think it’s called emotional “intelligence” is because there was the idea of general intelligence, or cognitive ability, or how smart you are, right? And that was the contrast. So, when emotional intelligence came on the scene, it was like, “Oh, think about E.Q. — your emotional quotient — not your I.Q.” So, I guess you could ask yourself: Which would you rather have: somebody who’s really, really smart, or somebody who’s really, really smart about emotions and people?

DUBNER: Well, as I learned from my friend Angela, we never want to have the either/or choice.

DUCKWORTH: So, you were always going to cheat and be like, “Well, you want both.”

DUBNER: Plainly, I want both.

Still to come on No Stupid Questions: Stephen and Angela discuss the dark side of emotional intelligence.

DUBNER: This guy makes Machiavelli look like your neighborhood pharmacist who’s trying to help you out.

*      *      *

Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about emotional intelligence, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the topic. We asked listeners to send us voice memos about what the concept means to them. Here’s how you responded:

FAITH: At its worst, it’s manipulation. At its best, it’s just having a really good caring friend who’s with you through thick and thin.

RANDY: Emotional intelligence is the ability to tap into a full wide range of emotions, whatever is appropriate for the situation.

LAUREN: It’s, like, about respect and empathy and — and it’s kind of like the opposite of how anyone would act on Succession.

So, we got a lot of great messages — but one of the common themes seemed to be about masculinity and emotional intelligence. And we wanted to play you a couple of those messages.

MICHAEL: When I was young, I spent most of my time with other people who are like me — mostly the other guys — and when I ran into somebody I didn’t understand emotionally, I would just try to avoid them. In my mid-20s, I got married and started a career where I deal with the public, and all of a sudden I found myself in situations where I had to understand people’s emotions and empathize with them. Honestly, I found it exhausting then, and I still find it exhausting now, 20 years later. I’m a relatively smart guy. I went to law school, and I’ve done pretty well in my career, but I feel like I have the emotional intelligence of an infant, maybe a toddler.

JOSH: I’m calling to talk about my experience with emotional intelligence. I’m a 26-year-old male. I grew up in a, I’d say, slightly “WASP-y” household. If you have upset feelings, you just bury that deep, deep down. You just shove it down. I didn’t know what the hell I was feeling, and I didn’t know how to express those feelings. I didn’t know how to put them into words. And so it just kind of started eating me up. And especially, I would say, as a male, being emotional is looked at as being weak. But now, years, years later, I find that to be incredibly stupid. I know when I have children, I’m going to teach them to express their feelings. After years in therapy, I learned to pinpoint those emotions and it really has just been a weight off my shoulders.

Thanks to everyone who shared their responses with us for adding a new perspective to this discussion. Now, back to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about whether emotional intelligence should be the number one criterion for hiring.

*      *      *

DUBNER: I can think of a number of people who are considered to be extremely intelligent and extremely successful at doing difficult things who were, or are, thought to have extremely low emotional intelligence.

DUCKWORTH: Give me examples.

DUBNER: I looked at this piece by an organizational psychologist named Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. I don’t know if you know him.

DUCKWORTH: Yeah, a little bit.

DUBNER: And this was a piece in Forbes a few years ago called, “Is There A Place For Emotionally Unintelligent Leaders?” And he wrote, “There’s no shortage of leaders with low emotional intelligence, including some exceptionally successful ones. From Walt Disney to Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos, many of the most successful self-made entrepreneurs would probably score low on most E.Q. tests.” Here’s another — what I find — compelling argument about the role of emotional intelligence in, let’s say, leadership. He wrote, “When you are too concerned with getting along and focused mostly on your subordinates’ wellbeing, you may find it harder to challenge people and push them to perform to the highest level.”

DUCKWORTH: Okay. First of all, I want to say that I have no idea how emotionally intelligent these famous people are who you named — I’ve never met and never administered an emotional intelligence test to. But let’s assume that it’s true that there are leaders who have gotten to the very top of the power hierarchy without a lot of emotional intelligence, without a lot of E.I. I think that’s plausible, but in those cases, I’m just going to make the argument that they succeeded despite the fact that they lacked this — not because.

DUBNER: Really? You think so?

DUCKWORTH: I mean, the other thing that article is really getting at is motivation. Like, “Oh, you don’t want to be distracted too much by how people feel.” But that’s not what E.I.— When it was defined as an ability, the very important part of the definition was that it’s the ability to do these things — not the tendency to do these things, not the desire, but just the ability — to perceive, use, understand, and manage emotion.

DUBNER: That feels a little hair-splitty, because it’s like saying, “I have the ability to shoot a 59 while playing golf, but I’m going to choose not to take up that ability.” It sounds so amazing, emotional intelligence, that if I have that ability, of course I would exercise it, right?

DUCKWORTH: But I think that line there that you read me about how, like, “Well, if you’re kind of overly concerned about other people are feeling,” I mean, just the capacity to perceive that someone is feeling badly; the capacity to use that information; the capacity to understand that when somebody is depressed, it comes from thoughts of hopelessness; and then having an arsenal of techniques to manage your own emotions and others— First of all, I want to say that, no, it doesn’t mean you have to exercise that. It doesn’t mean that you’re always going to do it. And secondly, it really is different. It’s not that you are always biased by other people’s feelings. It’s just that you’ve registered them, right? You’re like, “Oh, I can tell that you’re unhappy.” It’s hard for me to see that that would be, ever, bad.

DUBNER: I guess one counterargument one could make is the opportunity cost argument, which is that emotional intelligence, and the application thereof, could take away focus, time, resources from the execution of the plan. And if we bring it back to New York City, you know, I almost feel like Eric Adams prioritizing for emotional intelligence— I think he means nothing but good things by this. But I could also imagine how saying that you’re prioritizing for emotional intelligence is sort of a pre-excuse for mediocrity.

DUCKWORTH: Wait, how so?

DUBNER: Like, “After four years of being mayor, it’s true, we did not build any affordable housing. But we really felt the pain of the people who needed affordable housing while we were busy not building it.”

DUCKWORTH: So, because you are able to connect with people emotionally, it’s like subterfuge for actually delivering.

DUBNER: A little bit of moral licensing, perhaps. Like: I’m going to identify and feel compassion toward these people — whether it’s in my firm, my family, or so on. I’m going to exhibit my emotional intelligence, because I know that emotional intelligence is well thought of, and I want people to think well of me. But, is it possible that it might keep me from actually executing on the things that, in the end, would be more important than exercising my emotional intelligence?

DUCKWORTH: Okay. I think that’s a plausible argument. You know, I read this article that kind of blew me away. It’s by a young psychologist named Anton Gollwitzer. It’s about autism and social-psychological skill. So, I think you know what autism is. It’s a disorder that is diagnosed when somebody has extreme difficulty in person perceptions. But basically, these people are very low in emotional intelligence. And the finding here is that people who tend to be higher in autism end up being more psychologically skilled. In particular, they have these questions that they ask people that are, like, right out of a textbook for social psychology. There are things like, “people tend to overestimate the amount that other people share beliefs and attitudes.” That’s pluralistic ignorance.

So, how do people do on this? Well, some people get it right. Some people get it wrong. It turns out people who are on the spectrum for autism are more likely to get these textbook questions from social psychology right. I mean, it kind of blew me away. But it’s possible that, in a way, there’s a crowd-out effect or something. It’s like: Maybe people who are really emotionally intelligent are actually distracted by all the emotions that they’re perceiving. And they’re kind of swayed by the last tearful conversation they had with someone. And maybe the clear-eyed person who’s ignoring all that actually sees through to certain patterns, and, in this case, even, like, sees human nature more clearly.

DUBNER: That is really interesting. Now, I feel we can’t leave this conversation without bringing up an article written by a colleague of yours, Adam Grant. This was from The Atlantic in 2014. But this piece was called “The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.”

DUCKWORTH: Oh, I don’t know this article.

DUBNER: So, he wrote, “Emotional intelligence is important, but the unbridled enthusiasm for it” — as practiced by people like Angela Duckworth, I add parenthetically; Adam Grant did not write that — “the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side. New evidence shows that, when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others.” And he gives examples of two polar opposites who had very high levels of emotional intelligence. He gives the examples of Martin Luther King, and the other one— Do you want to guess? I almost feel like this is a cliché.

DUCKWORTH: Oh my gosh. Tell me it wasn’t Donald Trump.

DUBNER: Nope. Go right to the top of the bad pyramid.

DUCKWORTH: Is it, like, Machiavelli?

DUBNER: No. No, no, no. This guy makes Machiavelli look like your neighborhood pharmacist who’s trying to help you out.


DUBNER: Hitler!

DUCKWORTH: Yeah, that’s always the go-to.

DUBNER: Right. So, Adam Grant’s argument is that leaders who master emotions can rob us of our capacities to reason. Now, I have to say, when I read this, I didn’t think this is what we’re talking about. You know, this piece, again, was titled “The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.” To me, that doesn’t sound like the emotional intelligence that you’ve been describing. To me, this sounds like being able to read people in order to manipulate or manage them in a way that may be good, but could also be bad.

DUCKWORTH: Well, I will say this. When emotional intelligence was defined as an ability, it didn’t say that you would have the judgment to deploy that ability in the right way. It also didn’t say that you would have the morality — or the moral principles — to deploy that ability with any kind of integrity. So, yes, you can be an emotionally intelligent dictator who uses your ability to perceive, use, manage emotion to ill ends. I think that’s the difference between ability and character. And, in general, I would say that, like, the ability is— You know, more is better, but the reason why you need character is because that, on its own, doesn’t say that, ultimately, it’s going to be a good thing for anybody.

DUBNER: “Ability” implies it can be learned, even by someone who is low on the scale, or, let’s say, someone who is “slightly above average,” maybe like me. So, if one were to embrace the idea that emotional intelligence is indeed valuable, good for oneself, and good for others, then can you give me one takeaway idea for increasing my own emotional intelligence, even if just a hair?

DUCKWORTH: So, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is devoted to the education of emotional intelligence. They have this program called RULER. It’s like a whole curriculum. There are exercises. I think that most people who are experts in emotional intelligence believe that it’s an ability that’s malleable, and that you can get better at it, and you can do that through practice and through activities. Also, there are books like Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett from Yale. And the whole point is: “Read this book. You can become a little more emotionally intelligent by the end.”

DUBNER: So, you’re saying that I, by dint of asking you a question about emotional intelligence and hearing you out today, have probably set myself up to become more emotionally intelligent.

DUCKWORTH: One millimeter more emotionally intelligent. Yes, I think that’s right.

DUBNER: You’re giving me one millimeter, that’s it?

DUCKWORTH: Well, did you want, like, a yard? Actually, that would be a different system.

DUBNER: I mean, I’d really like to be police chief of New York City. So, if you can jack me up a little bit there, I’d appreciate it.

DUCKWORTH: Yeah. I don’t think one conversation you’re going to get more than a millimeter. But look, I will say this. I think that people who consider abilities like emotional intelligence to be malleable, to be learnable, etc., it’s a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I’m all-in on trying to learn it. And here is one more specific thing that Marc Brackett, who goes around, does workshops, helps schools— He says so many of us, when we’re in a conversation, ask, like, “Oh, Stephen, how are you?” That elicits, usually, a knee-jerk, “I’m fine.”

DUBNER: “Fine, thanks.”

DUCKWORTH: So, he likes to ask — and I’ve tried to do it myself, I think it’s really useful — “How are you feeling?” And I’ll just say that, foundational to all of this — emotional intelligence and its various facets — the first thing is to notice. Notice yourself. Notice other people. So, I don’t know if it’s a millimeter, I don’t know if it’s a centimeter, but you would get somewhere by asking the next person that you’re going to have a meeting with not just, “How are you?” “I’m fine.” But in a sincere way, “How are you feeling?” And then answering it yourself.

DUBNER: Right. “How are you feeling? And what can you do to help me become the police chief of New York City?”

DUCKWORTH: Exactly. Do you know Eric Adams? Because I’d like an introduction.

*      *      *

No Stupid Questions is produced by me, Rebecca Lee Douglas. And now here is a fact-check of today’s conversation.

In the first half of the show, Angela runs through sample questions from the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, or the MSCEIT. She says that “curious” would be a good answer to the question, “What mood (or moods) might be helpful to feel when meeting your in-laws for the first time?” However, in the MSCEIT sample test, the choices are “tension,” “surprise,” and “joy.” “Curious” is not an option. Test takers are told to rate the usefulness of each mood on a scale of one to five. Marc Brackett, the Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, says that someone with high emotional intelligence would likely mark “slight tension, mid surprise, and moderate joy.”

Later, Angela says that she doesn’t think data exists on which occupations require more or less emotional intelligence. While I wasn’t able to find reliable data on this exact question, I did find a related meta-analysis from researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. They found that emotional intelligence positively predicts performance for high emotional-labor jobs like sales and childcare, and negatively predicts performance for low-emotional labor jobs like data analysis.

Finally, Angela says that autistic people are very low in emotional intelligence. While it’s true that individuals on the autism spectrum often have difficulty reading the emotional subtext of conversations, therapy can help autistic people to discern intellectually what they may have difficulty understanding intuitively.

That’s it for the fact-check.

*      *      *

Coming up next week on No Stupid Questions: When it comes to long shots, how useful is hope?

DUCKWORTH: I threw my hat in the ring. And I did not receive the Yidan prize. And I tried for it again the next year. And, again, did not receive the Yidan prize. And this year I will apply for the Yidan prize, and I am sure I will, again, not receive the Yidan prize.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on the topic, email a voice memo to with the subject line “Long Shots.” Tell us about the longest long-shot you’ve ever taken, and what you learned from the experience. Make sure to record someplace quiet, and please keep your thoughts to under a minute. Maybe we’ll include them on the show!

*      *      *

No Stupid Questions is produced by Stitcher and Renbud Radio and is a part of the Freakonomics Radio Network, which also includes Freakonomics Radio, People I (Mostly) Admire, and Freakonomics, M.D. This show was mixed by Eleanor Osborne. Our staff includes Alison Craiglow, Greg Rippin, Morgan Levey, Zack Lapinski, Mary Diduch, Ryan Kelley, Jasmin Klinger, Emma Tyrell, Lyric Bowdich, and Jacob Clemente. Our theme song is “And She Was” by Talking Heads — special thanks to David Byrne and Warner Chappell Music. If you’d like to listen to the show ad-free, subscribe to Stitcher Premium. You can follow us on Twitter @NSQ_Show and on Facebook @NSQShow. If you have a question for a future episode, please email it to To learn more, or to read episode transcripts, visit Thanks for listening!

DUBNER: Knock-knock.

DUCKWORTH: Who’s there?

DUBNER: Interrupting cow.

DUCKWORTH: The interrupting cow trope.


DUCKWORTH: You know what? It’s still funny.

DUBNER: It’s why it’s a classic.

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  • Marc Brackett, professor in the Child Study Center of Yale University and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
  • Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University.
  • Anton Gollwitzer, postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
  • Adam Grant, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
  • Peter Salovey, professor of psychology and President of Yale University.



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