1.    What is the difference between cultural intelligence and cultural competence?

There are more than 300 models of cultural competence with dozens of corresponding inventories. Most of these models are not based on a coherent theoretical model, and as a result, many of them mix together attitudes, personality traits (stable), values, experience, and capabilities (learned skills).

Cultural intelligence, or CQ, is the capability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations. It is based on Sternberg & Detterman’s multiple loci theory of intelligence. CQ focuses specifically on learned skills that are critical for functioning effectively in culturally diverse environments. Skills, unlike values and personality, can be developed and improved through education, training, and experience.

2.  I haven’t lived overseas and I work domestically, so what is the relevance of CQ for me?

Very few people interact only with those who are culturally homogeneous. Cultural diversity exists in most organizations and in many supplier and customer relationships. Thus, CQ is relevant to almost everyone. It can be used to understand and deal with differences in national culture, ethnicity, gender, generation, organizational culture, professional culture, geographic region, and so forth.

3.  Is CQ relevant to global diversity or domestic diversity?

Both. Cultural intelligence research and its practical application occur in cross-border, international contexts (e.g., preparing expats for overseas assignments, study abroad programs, helping global teams, etc.), and in domestic contexts (e.g., multicultural teams, diversity and inclusion programs, unconscious bias training, etc.). CQ also can be used to provide insights into how individuals will function across other types of cultures such as those based on generational differences, organizational cultures, functional differences, and so forth.

Many organizations use CQ as a model for addressing both international and domestic interactions, as well as working across a broad range of cultural differences.

4.  What is the difference between CQ and EQ?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to detect and regulate the emotions of yourself and others. It’s a critical capability needed to work effectively with others. However, emotional intelligence is culturally conditioned. For example, the nonverbal behaviors that indicate someone is upset vary across cultures. A smile means different things in different cultures. Cultural intelligence picks up where emotional intelligence leaves off and allows you to have the social sensibilities and practical skills to work and relate effectively with people from novel cultures.

5.  Is CQ based on Howard Gardiner’s work on multiple intelligences?

Although Howard Gardiner’s work offers many valuable insights for the different ways individuals develop and learn, cultural intelligence is based on Sternberg and Detterman’s multiple loci theory of intelligence. This perspective emphasizes the different loci of intelligence needed to succeed in our 21st century environment (e.g., mental and behavioral capabilities).


6.  Do people from some places have higher CQ than others?

No. There are no meaningful differences in CQ scores based on country or part of the world. Instead, there are people who have low, moderate, and high scores throughout the world. Although people sometimes expect that those who live in highly diverse cities or places where multiple languages are spoken will automatically have higher CQ than those living in more homogeneous areas, this is not accurate. Furthermore, being part of an underrepresented group doesn’t automatically give someone higher CQ. Living in a culturally diverse setting as a minority generally provides more opportunities for intercultural interaction and adaptation but does not necessarily lead to higher CQ capabilities. Therefore, even though hands-on experiences are one of the best ways to improve cultural intelligence, it’s not automatic. It depends on how people approach these opportunities, the extent to which they genuinely engage with people from different backgrounds, and how they react to and reflect on those experiences.

7.    Why do you call it CQ instead of CI or CIQ?

In keeping with the academic research on other forms of intelligence (e.g., IQ, EQ, SQ, etc.), we use the acronym CQ to show that cultural intelligence is another form of research-based intelligence.


The Cultural Intelligence Center owns the copyright to the academically validated Cultural Intelligence Scale (CQS) and Expanded Cultural Intelligence Scale (E-CQS), and so we refer to our work as CQ.


8.  Why do the four capabilities go in this order: Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action?

One way to develop cultural intelligence is to focus first on the motivation to engage with different cultures (CQ Drive). Then it makes sense to gain an understanding of core cultural differences (CQ Knowledge). Next, you can use your knowledge of how cultures are similar and different to consciously plan for multicultural interactions (CQ Strategy). The final step is to make sure that your behavior is flexibly appropriate for different cultural settings (CQ Action). This is not the only way to develop CQ, but it provides one way of thinking about how you can enhance your CQ.





9.  How reliable and valid are the results of the CQ assessment?

More than 100 peer-reviewed articles demonstrate that the CQ assessment is a reliable and useful way to predict effectiveness in culturally diverse settings.


The Cultural Intelligence Scale (CQS) has been validated in many different culturally diverse samples, including executives, expats, professionals, employees in multicultural teams, and students. Dozens of academic studies demonstrate that the CQS predicts a wide variety of outcomes, including cultural decision-making, intercultural negotiation effectiveness, idea sharing with culturally diverse others, global potential, effective leadership in culturally diverse settings, and adjustment to culturally diverse contexts.

10. Why does the assessment ask questions about my background, and how is that relevant to my scores?

The questions you answered on your background (e.g., age, number of languages spoken, places you have lived, etc.) do not influence your CQ scores. Instead, this is background information we use to describe the characteristics of each group who completes the assessment.

11. I’ve taken the assessment before; why have my scores decreased?

It is possible that exposure to a new culture or a novel experience has increased your understanding of what you don’t know about culture, or how difficult it is to exhibit culturally appropriate flexibility. In addition, the CQ questions begin with the phrase, “compared to your peers,” so it is possible that your situation or point of reference has changed since you took the assessment previously (e.g., you’re in a new job and have new peers, or you’ve had other new experiences that have changed your perspective on your CQ capabilities).


Cultural intelligence is not static and can change depending upon your circumstances.

12. What if I disagree with the results of my CQ assessment?

While the assessment is a valid way to quantify your cultural competence and predict your intercultural effectiveness, there are subjective factors that can influence your results, such as your state of mind, level of fatigue when you completed the questionnaire, or a recent vivid experience. But beware of dismissing the results too quickly. Instead, use the feedback as an opportunity for reflection and discussion with others, as well as a chance to further develop your intercultural capabilities.



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