We know that:

  • Vulcans on average are more logical, due to their upbringing (based on the history of how their logic-based society evolved, it's not something natural to them as a species, but fully cultural)

  • Vulcans are an older, more evolved species; and therefore acquired more knowledge and possibly wisdom and definitely more technology.

While being logical and knowledgeable correllates with intelligence, it is not direct causation, so we can't assume that Vulcans are more intelligent than humans just on those 2 facts.

Is there any canon evidence that, on average, a Vulcan has more, less or same IQ - or any other objective intelligence estimate - than an average human?

Clearly basing this merely on select Science officers is wrong - presumably, Spock, T'Pal etc... are cream of the crop, not average Vulcans.

When I say "canon", i'm also including non-canon books, assuming that the book doesn't directly contradict screen canon.

  • good question, id hazzard that the logic of vulcans is also a hindrence to them. as weve seen in enterprise especially things that the vulcans refuse to study because they are illogical, happen to be real and human curiosity allows us to pursue things logic doesnt.
    – Himarm
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:03
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    For what it's worth, in-universe Vulcan intelligence is VERY often discussed in conjunction with comments about their logic and culture, and the recent JJ Abrams film (which I dislike but whatever) showed a very unique educational system for Vulcan youth. It was always my understanding that their seemingly-greater intelligence was a product of their culture and educational system placing greater emphasis on broad knowledge and analytics, rather than the "personal fulfillment" which the Humans of the Federation prize so much.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:24
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    I think this question needs to be more specific to be usefully answered. IQ isn't even a great test for intelligence even in humans, it's not going to do very well on aliens. And can you define "intelligence"? (If you can, you win psychology.)
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:26
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    Spock would say that the chances Vulcans are smarter is 97.37572%.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:58
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    @Oldcat Spock would be using an inappropriate amount of significant figures to impress a gullible audience. :)
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 18:02

4 Answers 4


We don't know because A) we rarely see an average Vulcan, B) IQ tests are a poor measure of intelligence and C) "intelligence" is ill-defined.

How do you measure intelligence? The OP mentions IQ, and IQ is thrown around in Star Trek a lot. It's possible in the future they've developed a definitive definition of intelligence and a reliable IQ test, but I doubt it. They're still struggling with sentience. Lacking any evidence, I'm going to use the modern ideas of intelligence and IQ.

There are a variety of different IQ tests which attempt to measure "intelligence", but they're all widely acknowledged to be biased. It's not known if IQ is measuring intelligence or a person's social and economic standing. Given that IQ tests are controversial in humans, they're probably going to work even worse on aliens.

And then there's the matter of the IQ score. Star Trek loves to throw around absurdly high IQ scores like 1200 for super-Barclay or 2005 for Q. These are nonsense. Your IQ score is based on your raw test score, but it doesn't scale linearly. An IQ score of 2005 means Q had a raw test score of something like 10,000 on a test where you're supposed to get raw scores of 20-500. How does that work? Does everyone but Q get most of the test wrong? Did Starfleet make an IQ test scaled to Q's intellect? Likely the Q have their own completely unbiased test for themselves, or Q just made it up on the spot to try and impress (not so) gullible humans.

But I digress.

What about the Vulcans we do see? Let's look at Spock (in TOS), T'Pol and Tuvok.

Spock and T'Pol show extraordinarily high deductive, analytical and mathematical skills. Spock, in particular, is able to perform astonishing math equations in his head. However, they both show extraordinarily low emotional intelligence, particularly with regard to humans. They're so bad at it they often choose to belittle it or simply ignore it leading to some very poor decisions. This could be a product of trying to understand humans, but other races don't seem to have that problem.

Spock and T'Pol are both scientists, either graduates of the Vulcan science academy or worked with the science council. Both show signs of indoctrination. Spock, despite his years among humans, continues to ignore their emotions. T'Pol hates emotions (yes, hates) and has an even lower view of humanity than Spock, but goes even further by letting her biases cloud her scientific judgement by denying observations which contradict Vulcan scientific doctrine (ie. time travel).

In contrast, Tuvok is not a scientist. He is a graduate of Starfleet Academy and later taught archery. While he finds human behavior often curious, he rarely demonstrates the same frustration or derision that Spock and T'Pol do (or only to get a rise out of Paris). In fact, he seems to have figured out humans (and everyone else on Voyager) so well he can practically predict their actions. This serves him as security officer very well.

In short: "Intelligence" is very slippery, many factored thing that cannot be measured with a single number. Someone can be very tuned into certain factors, but totally blind to others. This combination, coupled with arrogance in their own thinking, can give them some very poor judgement. I think most Vulcans are well rounded, but the Vulcan Science Academy turns them into awkward, arrogant, bigoted science nerds indoctrinated in the superiority of Vulcan logic.

Fortunately, Spock gets better as he gets older.

  • 4
    Sorry, but this seems more like a rant at your percieved beef with using IQ as a term and a concept than an actual answer. I specifically asked for average, not random "not singular of data" anecdotes in the form of 3 isolated characters. Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 18:31
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    @DVK Yes, the first half is about how the question is ill defined; we can't even answer it about humans, how can we do it with Vulcans? I do my best with it in the second half, but it is more about further illustrating the problems of defining and measuring "intelligence". I don't think we see much of Vulcan society or "average" Vulcans to do much better, but someone else can take a shot at that angle. If you want to narrow the question down, maybe specifically about doing better on IQ tests, then there could be something.
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 18:33
  • I can't find a solid reference. But I remember reading somewhere that Q actually states "the future human race becomes more advanced and intelligent than his own race." If this is true, and inline with the theory of humans only use 10% of their potential, could we not assume that humans in Star Trek can basically hold their own with Vulcans very early on in their Star Fleet era, and develop at a rate that supersedes the Vulcan race, both in terms of technology and intelligence. So my answer would be initially yes, but eventually no.
    – John Bell
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 9:47
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    @JohnBell "the theory of humans only use 10% of their potential" STOP! Stop right there. No. Just... no. "But there was that movie, Lucy!" NO!
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 17:44
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 21:17

I too have been vexed by Star Trek throwing around IQ scores -- very simplistic measure. But what we see about the Vulcan, for example, that we know best, Spock is that he is almost super-humanly capable technically. In terms of memory which is fairly objective, he appears to have perfect access to vast amounts of information.

I believe that in the same way that Star Trek chose to limit the amount of AI for plot/story reasons (the ship is not actually intelligent and while we have Data as a character, he is almost unique) the writers also needed to make humans about as intelligent as other species (with exceptions) to allow their adversaries to not simply overwhelm them all the time.

In the case of Vulcans, we saw them as certainly valuing intelligence and perhaps even selecting mates based on it and if this was the case with an actual species (like maybe on Earth bower birds and some other species where the female selects based on an object the male creates) there would be an ever-increasing level of intelligence.

Except: More than once, Vulcans' "worship" of logic has been indicated as being a weakness sometimes; Spock I think sometimes lost at chess to Kirk because of Kirk's illogical moves. So maybe Star Trek writers took the stance that intelligence alone does not make one species superior to another even if they implied that Spock was not just more logical than Kirk but actually more intelligent. Of course, who ended up Captain and who ended up First Officer?


I think that simplest way to solve this is to look at evolution. Humans are weaker than other primates, and we sacrificed muscle growth for brain growth. So the strongest species would the least intelligent.

In addition emotional control, empathy, and lying are highly expensive cognitive abilities, when compared to emotional suppression. We also know that smart people disagree more. So we have to take all this into account.

So here is my rough list

  1. Humans & Ferengi
  2. Andorians
  3. Cardassians
  4. Romulans
  5. Vulcans
  6. Klingons
  7. Jem Hadar

Humans went from being a 'warp capable species' in 2063 to the leading race in a political union by 2367. They also went to being warp 1 to warp 5 in less than 100 years even though they were undermined by the Vulcans. Vulcans are also unable to show empathy, or control their emotions. They have to suppress them. They also don't like lying - probably because they can't understand lying. Vulcans are vegetarians (meat eating is associated with smarter animals). They are also quoted as being 3x stronger than humans. This means they placed more calories into muscle growth than brain growth. This is a similar ratio to humans to chimpanzees so we can assume they have a similar IQ.


It may seem natural to place the Ferengi below Vulcans, however they are the most devious and most culturally similar race to Humans. Both the Ferengi and Humans are solid diplomats. Only difference is the Ferengi do it for personal gain, which is no longer something humans do. Quarks major undoing in DS9 is his empathy.

The bottom are Klingons and Jem Hadar. The Klingons stole, and the Jem Hadar gifted the ability to travel at warp speed.

The Klingons are probably painfully stupid because don't demonstrate any critical reasoning skills. Their idea of strategy is to charge in the front door. They also have 'redundancy' with their organs, this means that they have to expend calories on powering two hearts when one is enough. This means less calories and protein for brain development.

I mean having a conversation with an average Vulcan will be like talking to a 13 year old and talking to a Klingon would be like talking to a 5 year old. :-)

  • 4
    I find your reasoning specious. Each of these species evolved under different circumstances, with different sources of nutrition and different environmental challenges. There is no reason to believe that a Vulcan's greater strength has any bearing on their relative intelligence to a species which evolved on a different planet. Additionally, you place the Ferengi at the top, but they bought warp drive from another species.
    – Politank-Z
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 20:48
  • Obviously the reasoning is specious, but the idea that multiple species from the universe evolved the same body map (a head, two eyes, a nose, two ears etc...), they also have roughly the same gravity and that the can interbreed is also quite specious. If all this is true it implies that convergent evolution was at play (this was actually mentioned in an episode of TNG memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Chase_(episode)). They can also eat each other's food. This implies similar digestive process and energy conversion. So it's likely the same evolutionary pressures were at play. Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 23:40

I dont think so. Im going to make this short

I took vulcan almost 1900 years to developpe warp 5 after they first explored space, it took the humans 200+ years, there a big difference

  • this is explained in star trek enterprise
  • 3
    The Vulcans assisted Earth in development of our warp drives, so it's not a fair assessment. Additionally, Earth vessels had access to many other civilizations in the local area that weren't nearly as advanced when the Vulcans were developing. So even if the Vulcans went to the Andorians 1000 years ago, the Andorians wouldn't have the same technology they do between Enterprise and TOS.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 4:29
  • I think of something about the russian a-bomb project: the russians even if you neglect the stolen information by spies like klaus fuchs probably would have gotten their first nuke in a shorter time than we did because they had a huge piece of information: that it could be accomplished. so while our scientists would have spent a lot of time wondering if the entire idea was crazy, the russians could skip that, saving a lot of mental energy. so maybe same deal with warp 5.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 2:58

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