In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cultural Intelligence

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Measurement of CQ
  • Unique Relevance of CQ to Intercultural Contexts
  • Antecedents of CQ
  • Consequences of CQ for Dyads, Teams, and Firms
  • Critiques of CQ
  • Publications for Practitioners

Management Cultural Intelligence
Linn Van Dyne, Soon Ang, Mei Ling Tan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0115


Cultural intelligence (CQ) is the capability to function effectively in intercultural contexts, as discussed in Earley and Ang 2003 (cited under Conceptualization of Individual-Level CQ). CQ can refer to the capability of an individual, a team, or a firm. CQ is important for most individuals and organizations because the world is diverse, and contemporary organizations recognize the value of bridging cultures for both personal and organizational success. The introduction of CQ represents a marked research shift away from focusing on cultural differences to focusing on how to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural differences. CQ is theoretically precise about what is and is not part of its construct space. Rooted in the multiloci view of intelligence, the conceptualization of CQ comprises four factors: (1) metacognitive CQ (the mental capability to acquire and understand cultural knowledge), (2) cognitive CQ (knowledge about cultures, their similarities and differences), (3) motivational CQ (interest and confidence in functioning effectively in intercultural contexts), and (4) behavioral CQ (the capability to flex behaviors in intercultural interactions). By focusing on four factors, CQ offers a comprehensive and parsimonious framework that describes the domain of intercultural capabilities. While nascent, research on CQ has evolved rapidly along several themes. First, research shows the conceptual distinctiveness of CQ compared to other interpersonal intelligences and intercultural competencies. Research demonstrates that CQ is uniquely relevant to intercultural contexts, rather than monocultural contexts. Research also differentiates CQ from its antecedents, including personality traits and multicultural experiences. Second, a growing body of research documents the positive consequences of CQ for individuals, teams, and firms. In less than twenty years, the accumulating evidence of predictive and incremental validity has pushed CQ from a theoretical concept to a practical framework that organizations in over ninety countries have applied to global selection, training, and development. A third theme considers more complex CQ models. This research sheds light on mediators and moderators in the CQ nomological network. It also positions CQ within multiple levels of analysis. In this article, we review major research studies on each of these important research streams. Some references appear in more than one category because they relate to multiple streams of research.

General Overviews

Several sources provide overviews of CQ. Ang and Van Dyne 2008 provides a concise and comprehensive guide for those interested in CQ research: it discusses the conceptualization, theory, and measurement of CQ, as well as its application across various disciplines. The handbook proposes a nomological network of CQ, describes initial tests of proposed relationships, and points the way forward for future research. Ang, et al. 2011 provides a review and synthesis of early empirical research on CQ and describes encouraging evidence of CQ’s construct validity and practical value for intercultural effectiveness outcomes. The authors suggest ways to increase the progress of CQ research. Ng, et al. 2012 provides an updated review of CQ research, including conceptual progress, as well as an insider’s view of the joys and pains involved in establishing CQ as a valid and important construct. Based on their experiences, the authors offer best practice recommendations for conducting CQ research. Another review, Ang, et al. 2015, covers the historical background and evolution of CQ research. The authors discuss advances in CQ measurement—development of the multimedia intercultural situational judgement tests (iSJT), a performance-based CQ measure—and call for more research on measurement diversity of CQ, including the differential validity of alternative CQ measures. A more recent review in Fang, et al. 2018 includes a section dedicated to qualitative research on CQ.

  • Ang, Soon, Linn Van Dyne, and Thomas Rockstuhl. “Cultural Intelligence: Origins, Conceptualization, Evolution and Methodological Diversity.” In Advances in Culture and Psychology. Vol. 5. Edited by Michelle J. Gelfand, Chi-Yue Chiu, and Ying-Yi Hong, 273–323. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    Covers the evolution of CQ research, starting from its roots and initial research on individual-level main effects, to more recent research on complex and multilevel models. Discusses the complementary nature of alternative CQ measures—including self-report, informant-based, and performance-based measures (see also Measurement of CQ).

  • Ang, Soon, Linn Van Dyne, and Mei Ling Tan. “Cultural Intelligence.” In The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. Edited by Robert J. Sternberg and Scott B. Kaufman, 582–602. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511977244.030

    The first comprehensive review of CQ that integrates empirical research on its correlates, antecedents, consequences, and moderators. Highlights ways to broaden and deepen CQ research, including studies on the multidimensional structure of each primary CQ factor; an expanded CQ nomological network; complementary CQ measures; and dyadic-, team-, and firm-level CQ.

  • Ang, Soon, and Linn Van Dyne, eds. Handbook of Cultural Intelligence. New York: Sharpe, 2008.

    An edited volume—comprising twenty-four chapters by a multinational group of authors—that establishes further construct validity for the CQ concept and extends its nomological network. Also discusses the application of CQ in multicultural teams and across disciplines, as well as other constructs that may be related to CQ.

  • Fang, Fang, Vidar Schei, and Marcus Selart. “Hype or Hope? A New Look at the Research on Cultural Intelligence.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 66 (2018): 148–171.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2018.04.002

    Includes a review of fourteen qualitative studies conducted in different countries—including those in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America—in a range of contexts, including expatriation, offshoring, international service learning, multinational corporations, and peace operations.

  • Ng, Kok-Yee, Linn Van Dyne, and Soon Ang. “Cultural Intelligence: A Review, Reflections, and Recommendations for Future Research.” In Conducting Multinational Research: Applying Organizational Psychology in the Workplace. Edited by Ann M. Ryan, Frederick T. L. Leong, and Frederick L. Oswald, 29–58. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1037/13743-002

    Summarizes the systematic research program that developed CQ from a controversial, theoretical concept to a robust, measurable construct with strong validity evidence. Includes insightful, personal reflections on the rewards and challenges of conducting CQ research, as well as recommendations on best research practices for future CQ research.

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