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The nonsense quotient

I had to attend some leadership training this week, which is a cross we must all bear from time to time.

The trainer declared that IQ, as in ’intelligence quotient’, was one of only four jointly conceived attributes which make up a rounded person. The others, for what it’s worth, were cited as the ‘emotional’, ‘physical’ and ‘spiritual’ quotients.

The trainer explained that the word ‘quotient’ shared a root with ‘quadrant’ and was chosen because there were four domains.

My bullshit antennae were firing so intensely at this point that they may have been visible if it wasn’t quite so long since I last cut my hair. Yet, at least the trainer’s misplaced confidence made me spend a few minutes reading around the topic from sources more reliable than the course’s tie-in leadership paperback.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that ‘quotient’ is a direct borrowing from the Latin ‘quotiens’ meaning ‘how many times’ or ‘how often’. In the ‘intelligence quotient’ sense, it’s referring to the quantity of intelligence. There’s no historical or modern sense in which it connects to a sense of there being four parts.

The prefix ‘quadr-’, as I should have remembered from school, comes from the Latin numeral ‘quattuor’.

But what about IQ? I should have remembered this, as I recall presenting on it during a special study module I took in learning disabilities a couple of decades ago. It was created in the early 1900s by the German psychologist William Stern as a standardised figure for monitoring child development: simply divide their ‘mental age’ by their ’chronological age’ and multiply by 100.

EQ is rooted in more modern psychology, while PQ and SQ seem to be modern inventions by leadership gurus, keen to repackage and upsell ancient philosophy.

I may have been cynical about the course, but it clearly has made me learn something.

This post was filed under: Health, .

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