Emotional intelligence is a relatively new concept within the psychological community and was introduced to the general public by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 popular publication, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ or EI, is characterized as the psychological faculties used to identify, understand, and apply personal and interpersonal feelings. In other words, EQ refers to the ability to understand and manage feelings. Individuals’ emotional intelligence facilitates and guides their comprehension and control of appropriate emotional responses across various life situations. It is suggested that high EQ individuals are skilled in identifying and dealing with emotions— both their own and other people’s. Ultimately, it is suggested that the possession of emotional intelligence permits the successful use and management of social and communicative skills. Thus, EQ provides the answer to the question: “How could someone so smart be so bad with people?” The deficit lies not with lay person’s concept of common sense but rather, technically, with emotional intelligence.
History Of Emotional Intelligence
The first formal definition of emotional intelligence was formulated by the academic duo, Peter Salovey, PhD, of Yale and John Mayer, PhD, from the University of New Hampshire, as they deliberated about the intermingling of emotion and intelligence: “We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (1990, pp. 185–211). Their work pioneered and led to the general consensus that there are four basic abilities comprising emotional intelligence. These are the ability to
- perceive or sense emotions;
- use emotion to assist thought;
- understand emotions; and
- manage emotions.
Incorporating these elements into their definition, EQ experts Bar-On and Parker (2000) more recently defined emotional intelligence as “a multifactorial array of interrelated emotional, personal and social abilities that influence our overall ability to actively and effectively cope with demands and pressures.”
Development Of Emotional Intelligence
The etiology of EQ, how it is developed, has yet to be empirically determined. The only definitive conclusion made at this time is that parents who have high EQ also have children with high EQ. Either socialization/parenting practices and/or genetic factors may account for this finding. It is also unknown whether gains found in children in the area of EQ are actually attributable to any specific interventions or training, for example, education in recognizing and understanding emotions, or whether such gains are part of naturally occurring cognitive and social advances as children develop.
Measurement Of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence has been measured in many ways but primarily has been conceptualized as either an ability or a trait. Two particular tests frequently used to measure emotional intelligence exemplify this difference. The pioneers of the concept of emotional intelligence itself, Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso, developed the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), which conceptualizes and measures emotional intelligence as an ability or a group of emotion-processing skills.
The MSCEIT’s scales measure emotional perception (ability to identify emotions), emotional facilitation (ability to translate feelings into emotion), emotional understanding (ability to define complex emotions), and emotional management (ability to effectively include emotion in decision making). For example, a test item might ask an individual to look at a picture of a face and then using a rating scale indicate how that person is feeling. Gender differences on ability-based measures of EQ have been found. Women tend to perform better than men on all four scales of the MSCEIT.
A second commonly used measure of emotional intelligence is the BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory (BarOn EQ-i) (1997, 2000) created by Reuven Bar-On. This instrument conceptualizes emotional intelligence as a trait and, as such, uses a trait-based approach to measuring it. The BarOn EQ-i is a 133-item self-report measure in which individuals provide self-ratings on categories such as their intrapersonal and interpersonal characteristics, adaptability to stress, stress management through problem-solving methods, and methods they apply to manage mood through self-control and conscientiousness. In lieu of self-report ratings such as those used with the BarOn EQ-i, multiperspective ratings have also been developed to measure emotional intelligence. This method involves having a person’s emotional intelligence rated by numerous people well known to the individual such as family members, friends, and employers/colleagues. The results are compiled and said to provide a more objective rating of the individual’s EQ.
When Daniel Goleman, a Harvard PhD psychologist, expanded Salovey and Mayer’s academic work on emotional intelligence into the mainstream, emotional intelligence began to gain recognition and widespread use in applied settings as well, particularly in the occupational environment. The EQ concept argues that traditional intelligence (IQ) is too constricted to be the primary predictor of success, and EQ may be able to account for a wider range of abilities that lead to successful work performance. Goleman’s research sought to differentiate the impact of cognitive and noncognitive abilities on performance. Goleman also proposes that EQ, unlike IQ, can be learned. In his model for developing EQ, Goleman describes five “domains” of EQ that are trainable:
- Knowing your emotions
- Managing your own emotions
- Motivating yourself
- Recognizing and understanding other people’s emotions
- Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others
Current research on EQ in the workplace suggests that compared to low EQ coworkers, high EQ is linked to increased job performance, reduced turnover, and stronger leadership and managerial ability in employment settings. High emotional intelligence has also been found to predict employability. High EQ has also been linked to stronger academic performance and also to general interpersonal behaviors and interactions such as sportsmanship, helping behaviors, and civic involvement.
EQ has been applied to the study of stress and health as well. For example, in adolescents, high EQ has also been found to serve as a protective factor against teenage smoking; and it is suggested that adolescents high in EQ benefit more from prevention programs. Along with concepts such as positive and negative affectivity, optimism, and locus of control, EQ is considered influential in the way that individuals perceive, evaluate, and respond to stress. Research to date finds that workers with high EQ experience less stress and have better levels of health than their moderate to low-scoring colleagues.
EQ has been hypothesized to have potential future implications in clinical work as well. For example, the presence of pathologically low emotional intelligence (PLEQ) may have an important impact in relation to diagnosis, conceptualization, and treatment of emotional disorders. Because it is believed that EQ can be learned and developed via education and experience, emotional intelligence training programs have been established internationally. These programs report that for some individuals, EQ is strengthened through developmental training, thereby improving the health, well-being, and/or performance of the trainees. Additional program evaluation is needed to fully support such claims.
Critics of the emotional intelligence construct note that EQ, as it is currently conceptualized and measured, demonstrates limited incremental utility and predictive value over and above existing traditional intelligence and personality measures. Yet, many believe that the construct of EQ holds much promise, and almost all agree that it is in need of further empirical
investigation. Goleman and others purport that EQ, in fact, predicts work and life success. High EQ is said to promote high achievement in life. Research is needed to fully substantiate such powerful statements, yet the construct of EQ holds much promise and infinite research opportunities.
- Bar-On, R., & Parker, J. D. (Eds.). (2000). The handbook of emotional intelligence: Theory, assessment, and application at home, school, and in the workplace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Caruso, (n.d.). Emotional intelligence. Available from http://www.emotionaliq.com
- Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, http://www.EQconsortium.org
- Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York:
- Multi-Health Systems. (n.d.). Emotional intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.emotionalintelligencemhs.com
- Salovey, P., & Mayer, D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185–211.
- Stein, S. , & Book, H. E. (2000). The EQ edge: Emotional intelligence and your success. Toronto, Canada: Stoddart.