Are there any skills or abilities that correlate negatively with IQ?

Source: mohamed_hassan


For one, see Melnick, M.D., Harrison, B.R., Park, S., Benetto, L., and Tadin, D. (2013) A Strong Interactive Link between Sensory Discriminations and Intelligence. Current Biology 23, 1013–1017

The summary states “High-IQ individuals, although quick at perceiving small moving objects, exhibit disproportionately large impairments in perceiving motion as stimulus size increases” (their emphasis), which in various online articles has been extrapolated to infer that smart people are detail oriented, but aren’t as good at seeing things right in front of their face.

There’s also the notorious case, Jordan v New London, where a man was disqualified from police officer employment because he scored too high on the exam, his score being estimated to be equivalent to a 125 IQ. Apparently, they had ascertained from ??? that highly intelligent people were more likely to become bored with police work and quit, leading to a waste of training resources. I’ve also heard the reason given that “smart people aren’t as good at following orders,” though I don’t know what research there is to substantiate this.




IQ has to be taken with a grain of salt. This is a standardized tool only if it is used correctly. Use the different indices and it will be much more precise.

clichees that intellectually gifted people are for example bad with working with their hands, lack so called practical knowledge whatever that means,

Except for savant syndrome and other similar pathology, it’s not necessarily true (Pearson 2008 : the results in WAIS IV subtests doesn’t demonstrate any specificity of high-ranking participant. In other words, they can be great in one subtest and average in other, or great in one subtest and great in the other. The main correlation is for subtests in the same Index).

If we assume that people have limited brain power/time to train/resources, etc…

There isn’t a “limited brain power”. For example memory (See B. Schwartz 2013). Except if you are not a healthy participant, you can train your memory and increase this ability.

The limit considering the “time to train” is real though. But it’s the same for everyone.

it would make sense that high ability in some areas comes at a cost in some other areas.

Plasticity of the brain is not about “losing” an ability to gain another, it’s about developing additional connection during training (see my answer to /u/GOD_Over_Djinn, and look at long-term potentiation for example). In other words, you become great in the skill you train intensively, but you don’t change your other skills if you use them (same level before and after training, or even higher when there is a neuronal implication for other skills).

A counter-example of your question: some studies have shown that language and spatial reasoning are linked (see Levinson 2002), and not negatively correlated.

You can also read the work done in cognitive remediation (for example see Barlati 2013 for a review in schizophrenia).



One of the most empirically supported observations in all of the social sciences is that basic cognitive tasks (e.g., arithmetic, vocabulary, or working memory tests) almost always inter correlate with one another (so you don’t just see a correlation between, for example, language based tests. These tests correlate with all others and vice versa). This is sometimes referred to as the positive manifold in intelligence testing and the evidence supporting it is astounding, pretty much every good sample over the last 100 years has identified this pattern of correlations.

What this means statistically is that a a decent chunk of variance between individuals is shared by all tests, methods exist to measure this shared variance indirectly by defining latent variables, due to the pervasive inter-correlations in cognitive tasks the best latent variable structure for such tasks is built around a single general factor (sometimes called g) and this essentially measures what is common to all basic cognitive tasks. This general factor accounts for about 40-60% of all variance in individual items. So the common remark that differences in cognitive ability are too complicated to measure with a single number are true, but that single number alone accounts for a huge proportion of what’s going on there. It’s this general factor that IQ tests are designed to measure (and their validation will usually revolve around how well they do this).

Long story short, in the cognitive domain, IQ scores will pretty assuredly, by the existence of the positive manifold and the means by which IQ scores are defined, positively correlate with basic cognitive tasks. It would be pretty notable if tasks were found for which this isn’t the case

That’s for basic tasks, more involved tasks don’t have the same near certain positive correlation but the range of tasks that do relate positively is pretty comprehensive. It’s certainly not limited to academic or ‘hands off’ work and IQ and emotional intelligence are closely related enough that it causes some issues for the study of emotional intelligence.

IQ doesn’t have a positive relation with all skills, but it can be taken as a fairly safe general principle at this point that, mentally, good things tend to come together (and so will correlate positively with IQ).




IQ already has a spotty correlation to begin with. If we leave IQ behind and just talk about “intelligence” then we’re getting into a huge can of worms wherein we have to define what exactly we mean by intelligence. Psychologists who work in studying it use intelligence as an ability to learn, or as creativity, or as the acquisition of knowledge, or as capacity for change… Throw brain plasticity on top of it all and things like ‘potential’ start to lose meaning.

(For a quick summary of some of the theories, see here;

For a quick rundown on plasticity, this article serves its purpose;

Are you starting to see the difficulty here?

Certain brains happen to be wired such that they are better at certain things, and I would expect that there are definite correlations between specific skills (for example, someone who works as a carpenter is likely to have both good spacial abilities and concentration, someone who works in computer science is likely to have good memory and good logic)

However, these correlations definitely do NOT approach 1, I know computer scientists who are very sociable and social workers who are extremely logical. The brain is incredibly complex and its ability to adapt is not really drawing from a pool of resources (although there was a study I read about how willpower tends to be spent from a limited pool, but not intelligence. for a basic rundown.)

Edit, fixed a few keywords and added sources

Oh, and I did find one thing that has an inverse correlation with IQ: Faith, this article has a short discussion about the research.




The Sociological Mail


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: