There is a persistent stereotype that geeks (let's formally define that as people a couple of standard deviations better than average in math, computers or other related abilities) as a whole have relatively poor language/communication skills, especially compared to other smart people with different talents (e.g. lawyery types). I hope this doesn't need "notability" claim :)

  • Is there any research confirming or denying this?

  • Is there a significant difference between "language" skills and "communication" skills in this context?

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    I would prefer to see an example claim, if it was at all possible, to remove the vagueness from the question. (Your definition of 'geek' is unusual, and you ask the answerer to define language and communication skills.)
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 25, 2012 at 13:31
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    (Speculation: If a child is good at words but not at maths, they are encouraged become a lawyer. Good at maths but not at words, they are encouraged to take a technical role. Good at both, they might get encouraged to become a doctor. Good at neither, they might be encouraged to become a manager/insert-your-own-dig-here. This explains the stereotype without a correlation being required.)
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 25, 2012 at 13:35
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    @Sklivvz: There are at least three broad definitions of "geek". Oxford Dictionaries suggest: an unfashionable or socially inept person; a knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast; a carnival performer who performs wild or disgusting acts. Same dictionary has two definitions for nerd: a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious; a single-minded expert in a particular technical field. So, to say geeks or nerds are socially inept is almost a tautology (depending on the definition intended).
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 25, 2012 at 14:32
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    Ok, but restricting it makes it arbitrarily focused. The claim is very broad, but the question needn't be.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 25, 2012 at 15:35
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    @Oddthinking "Good at both, they might get encouraged to become a doctor." Having taught intro physics to a bunch of premeds more than once, I can't say I've been very impressed with their mathematical capacity. And even among diabetologist most have trouble working the arithmetic of insulin pumps without a calculator. Dec 28, 2012 at 0:49

2 Answers 2


It depends what you mean by communication skills but at least on the level of testable verbal skills the average physics student far outstrips the average psychology or sociology student.

GRE intended major

Overall there's a positive correlation, if you're good at math you're more rather than less likely to be good with words. If you're good with words you're more rather than less likely to be good with numbers.


  • "The Verbal Reasoning measure of the GRE® revised General Test assesses your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts" IMO this has very little to do with human-to-human communication skills. (Anecdotically, I'm on the geek side, math oriented mind; I would probably perform well on that "verbal" test -I love to read literature, poetry, theology, etc- but I perform definitely bad at real human communication)
    – leonbloy
    Jun 1, 2016 at 20:29

ADHD is associated with problems in both math and peer-relations according to, among others, a Berkeley news report. If there is a common core component to ADHD, one might speculate that numerical working memory capacity and social working memory overlap to some extent. There is evidence for an overlap between these functions in terms of a non-specific neural correlate for working memory: activity in medial frontoparietal cortex decreases with increased working memory loads (see PNAS 2011).

If a single factor underlies both computation and social skills and if the factor can be extrapolated to the normal-cognitive population, it is possible that social and computational capacities depend on a shared cognitive element. However, further research would be needed to support this hypothesis. If this holds true, one would expect mathematicians with greater working memory capacity to be more social.

Erdős number anyone?

  • Yes, here: 4 =)
    – Jens
    Jul 12, 2013 at 6:19
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    I'm sorry, but I don't think this is a good answer. There are too many correlation != causation issues going on. The lower math scores are likely a limit in focus during math class making, making learning in general harder not math specifically, and issues with peer-relations a problem with impulsiveness, lowered self esteem, and 'unreliability'. Basically, they could be side effects not direct causes of ADHD, to presume this means correlation is a stretch, much less when expanded to non ADHD.
    – dsollen
    Feb 12, 2016 at 20:28
  • @dsollen Where did I imply causation? I am merely stating a hypothesis. I agree that attention during maths class is a possible culprit, but the link between maths performance and the ability to hold and update many items in memory simultaneously is a quite robust observation. Impulsiveness is coupled to a lack of behavioral inhibition. Behavioral inhibition is also required in order to direct attention away from distractions.
    – noumenal
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:03

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