Motivation and emotion/Book/2011/Emotional intelligence

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Emotional intelligence:
What is it? Do you have it? How can it be developed?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Emotional intelligence as a concept has come a very long way in a very short time. The term was coined in 1990 by two American psychologists; Peter Salovey and John Mayer (Ugwu, 2011). Within just five years, emotional intelligence as a term had been named the American Dialectic Society’s word or phrase of year, and it appeared on the cover of Time Magazine (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso 1999).

Since then, the business community has embraced the concept enthusiastically on the premise that an emotionally intelligent manager will be a more effective manager and better able to deal with change (Mayer, 2002). The concept has also successfully crossed the scientific/popular culture divide (Mayer et al, 2002) with self help books, magazines and numerous websites extolling the virtues of emotional intelligence and offering instruction to readers on how to acquire it. Complicating this already cluttered scene is the fact that emotional intelligence theory has fragmented into at least three main streams making it hard to precisely define (Zeidner, Roberts & Matthews, 2002) and even harder to measure in a scientific fashion (Cherniss, Exstein, Goleman & Weissberg, 2006). The lack of a clear, unified definition and its broad mainstream popularity has led some to suggest that emotional intelligence may be nothing more than another psychological fad (Matthews, Roberts & Zeidner, 2004).

The purpose of this chapter is to help the reader understand the concept of emotional intelligence by firstly mapping its evolution, and then introducing the four main streams of thought on emotional intelligence. The reader’s evaluation of emotional intelligence will then be assisted by providing answers to the following questions:

  • Is emotional intelligence "really" intelligence?
  • Can emotional intelligence be taught; and
  • How can it be developed?

But first, the following hypothetical situation will illustrate how emotional intelligence might manifest itself in the workplace.

A day at the office[edit | edit source]

Imagine a large, open plan office. As a manager arrives for work, staff members look up, but the manager heads straight for her office, avoiding any eye contact. During morning tea, she stays in her office, and after 15 minutes emerges to wonder out loud whether people have any work to do. During the course of the day, she calls an employee in for a performance appraisal. She tells the staffer she’s noticed a slackening of his performance and that he’d better pick up his act or his job might be on the line. The staffer tells his manager about a number of serious personal issues which are affecting his concentration. The manager responds that everybody has problems to deal with and that he should seek help from the company’s employee assistance service. She then sets a number of performance targets the staffer will have to meet if he is to avoid dismissal and terminates the meeting.

FEMA - 9091 - Photograph by Jason Pack taken on 11-25-2003 in California.jpg

In another part of the same office, a different manager arrives for work. He offers a general “good morning” to staff, goes into his office to check messages and then strolls around each desk inquiring about the weekend with one person, the wellbeing of another worker’s sick child, or the football results with a known football fan. Later, the manager joins staff for morning tea and takes a genuine interest in the conversation. During the course of the day, he calls an employee into his office for a performance appraisal. He tells the staffer that he’s noticed the staffer seems to have been a little distracted lately and that this seemed to be very much out of character. The manager says he’s worried because these distractions might be affecting the person’s work. He then inquires if everything is alright. The staffer tells him she has a number of personal issues which are affecting her concentration. The manager responds by inquiring whether there might be something he could do to help the situation. Does the worker need to take some leave to resolve the issues? Would some counselling help? The manager concludes by telling the staffer that they can work together to make sure she gets back to firing on all cylinders.

Both managers have Masters of Business Administration qualifications, both have high IQs, strong management experience, and a record of delivering results, but they differ markedly in their approaches to the same scenario. The first could be said to have adopted a reasoned approach, in which she has refused to allow emotion to interfere with getting the job done, while the second manager exhibits an emotionally sensitive, or feeling approach to his work (Ciarrochi, Forgas & Mayer, 2001).

A brief history of emotional intelligence[edit | edit source]

Reason and feeling have traditionally been regarded as separate dimensions of the human psyche, with the ancient Greeks dismissing feelings or emotions as nothing more than 'wind' (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). But attempts have been made to integrate reason and emotion with a concept that has evolved over the last century and become known as emotional intelligence (Ciarrochi, Forgas & Mayer, 2001).

In the early 1900’s Charles Spearman developed his famous two factor theory of “g” or general intelligence which placed task specific abilities alongside of general ability when intelligence was being measured (Spearman, 1904).


In the early 1920s , American educationalist E. L. Thorndike (1920) proposed that intelligence could be divided into the abstract, mechanical and social. In a later paper, Robert Thorndike and Saul Stein (1937) posited that ‘social intelligence’ could include economic and political issues, fair-mindedness and honesty, or more generally, an individual’s understanding of, and response to society.

This is similar to a later triarchic theory of intelligence proposed by Robert Sternberg. Sternberg stressed the importance of cognitive processes with his analytic, creative and practical view of intelligence (Hunt,2008). Psychologist Howard Gardner (1998) went on to develop an even broader list that specifically included personal intelligences which entailed the ability to accurately perceive one’s own and other’s moods and feelings and then use that information to inform behaviour. Click the arrow on the right of the following drop down box for more about Gardner's concept.

Peter Salovey and John Mayer (1990) expanded on Gardner's concept of personal intelligences and coined the term "Emotional Intelligence". They saw emotional intelligence as the ability to recognise and use an individual's own emotional states and those of others in order the regulate behaviour and get things done (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Click the arrow on the right of the drop down box for more about Salovey & Mayer's concept.

The work of Salovey and Mayer subsequently led to an explosion of interest in emotional intelligence from both experts in the field interested in the knowledge for the sake of knowledge, and those interested in it's practical application (Ciarrochi, Forgas & Mayer 2001). Prominent writers and researchers in the field now include Reuven Bar-on and Daniel Goleman. Bar-on's model builds on the Salovey and Mayer concept by defining five characteristics of emotional intelligence (Bar-on, 2006). Click the arrow on the right of the drop down box for more about Bar-on's concept.

The work of Daniel Goleman is an example of one aknowledged expert in the field of emotional intelligence taking the practical application approach described earlier by Ciarrochi et al., (2001). Goleman has published numerous books in the self help category but is also a significant publisher in the business genre. In an interview with an educational periodical, Goleman described emotional intelligence as "another way of being smart" (O'Neil, 1996). This, he said, entailed being on top of your own emotions, being aware of the emtions of those around you and managing the interplay of those emotions while working towards a goal (O'Neil, 1996). According to Goleman, traditional IQ is certainly important, but he believes it only accounts for 20% of a person's chance of success in life. Goleman believes the rest comes from something else (O'Neil, 1996). Click the arrow on the right of the drop down box for more about Goleman's concept.

Is Emotional Intelligence really intelligence?[edit | edit source]

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Given the similarity of each of the versions of emotional intelligence outlined above, and the limitations of space, this chapter will critically examine the concept as a whole.

The main arguements used by critics of the emotional intelligence concept are firstly that validity can be ruled because of the multiplicity of constructs that exist ( Waterhouse, 2006); secondly, the tools used to measure the construct are not universally definitive (Matthews et al.,2004); and thirdly that Emotional Intelligence has not been differentiated from the Big Five personality traits and IQ (Waterhouse, 2006).

Responding to the first criticism, Cherniss et al., (2006) stress that the construct is still in its infancy and the fact that a multiplicity of theories have developed around the original construct demonstrates the idea has vitality. This point has been conceded by critics of Emotional Intelligence (Matthews et al., 2004) who have added that it may yet evolve into a very significant concept.

According to Matthews et al., (2004) the current tools used to determine whether emotional intelligence meets the critera for an intelligence, fall into two basic categories- self report and performance based measures. Matthews et al., (2004) have pointed to a number of limitations of the self report method including the strong possibility that self perception of emotional intelligence can be very inaccurate. The causal factors behind this tendency to inaccuracy include deception and impression management on the part of the self reporter (Matthews et al., 2004).

The response to this criticism has seen the development of performance-based measures with Mayer, Salovey, Caruso and Sitarenios (2001) first developing the Multi-factor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS)which has since been supersceded by the Mayer,Salovey,Caruso Emotional Intelligence Scale (MSCEIT) (Matthews et al., 2004). Reuven Bar- On has also developed a measure of his own model, the EQi (Bar-0n, 2006) as has Daniel Goleman with his Goleman ESCI inventory (Sadri, 2011). A meta anlysis of all of these individual tests has found that while they measure their own specific constructs, each have generally demonstrated internal consistency reliability (Conte, 2005).

The third criticism is that Emotional Intelligence has not been shown to be different from personality traits plus IQ (Waterhouse, 2006). This criticism appears to be at odds with the bulk of research on the question (Cherniss et al., 2006). A meta-analysis of some 58 studies of the Emotional Intelligence construct involving more than 8,000 research particpants has found that Emotional Intelligence is something distinct from cognitive ability or personality traits (VanRooy, Viswesveran & Pluta, 2005).

Notwithstanding the arguements on the need for a unified concept and one measurement for that unified concept, it is clear that the evidence strongly indicates that Emotional Intelligence is a reliable construct in all its current forms (Cherniss et al., 2006; Van Rooy et al., 2005; Conte, 2005). The business community and educationalists were among the first sectors to see the potential of the new concept (Pearman, 2011; Mayer & Cobb, 2000) .

Can you learn to be emotionally intelligent?[edit | edit source]

FVES Classroom.jpg

At first glance, Melrose Primary School in the regional Victorian Centre of Wodonga, might appear to be a fairly typical government-run primary school that can be found anywhere in Australia, but for one important difference. In addition to reading,writing and arithmetic, Melrose teaches its students the Daniel Goleman version of emotional intelligence. According to its webpage, the school believes that learning about empathy, self control, self awareness and managing relationships will help its students to be successful in a changing and uncertain world. This belief echoes those of educationalists around the world who were among the earliest sectors to adopt the Emotional Intelligence construct(Mayer & Cobb, 2000).

Introducing Emotional Intelligence programes into schools has been a highly controversial issue, because schools have traditionally been seen as bastions of rational thinking (Humphrey, Curran, Morris, Farrell & Woods, 2007). Some within the emotional intelligence movement itself expressed concern that the version of emotional intelligence being adopted by educationalists was based more on mass media journalism than rigorous research (Mayer & Cobb, 2000). But research is now beginning to show such programs have had a considerable impact. For example, a recent meta analysis of 213 school-based social and emotional learning programs based on four different practices involving over 270,000 kindergarten children reported an 11 percentile point improvement in emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger., 2011). Similar results have been reported around the world. For example, a study conducted in Iran shows a significant correlation between Emotional Intelligence programs and academic satisfaction (Sheykholeslami & Ahmadi, 2011) and a study conducted among school students in Spain showed a considerable reduction in stress (Ramos, Hernández & Blanca, 2009).

The outcomes to date clearly indicate that Emotional Intelligence can not only be learned, but it can lead to positive outcomes.

Can I develop my emotional intelligence?[edit | edit source]

Research indicating that emotional intelligence can be learned in childhood when attitudes are more malleable seems to be building, but can it be developed as an individual matures? This has been a hot topic for occupational psychologists, business managers and human resource professionals since the concept received broad publicity two decades ago (Dulewicz & Higgs, 2004). A study among 224 managers in a large Irish retail organisation found that with hard work, Emotional Intelligence could be learned, developed and improved (Slaski & Cartwright, 2002).

In a seperate analysis of three separate studies of managers, team leaders and the skippers and crews from an around-the-world yacht race, Dulewicz and Higgs (2004) also concluded that Emotional Intelligence could be developed, but that some aspects could be more readily developed than others. The authors suggested that elements such as self-awareness, and the interpersonal elements, sensitivity and influence were the most amenable to development, while elements such as intuitiveness and conscientiousness were more problematic in terms of development (Dulewicz & Higgs, 2004).

Kunnanatt (2004) has reminded us that a huge and highly profitable industry has sprung up world-wide offering a variety of intervention schemes to organisations and individuals based on the premise that emotional intelligence is a learned competence (Goleman et al., 2002). The work of Dulewicz and Higgs (2004), Slaski and Cartwright (2002)and Lindebaum (2009) shows that while emotional intelligence can be developed, only certain aspects of it may be able to be acquired. Lindebaum (2009) also adds that organisations that encourage individual initiative in the acquisition of Emotional Intelligence will fare much better than those that seek to impose it.

How emotionally intelligent are you?[edit | edit source]

Numerous tests have been devised to measure the level of emotional intelligence. Principal among them are the Mayer,Salovey,Caruso Emotional Intelligence Scale; the Bar-on EQi and Daniel Goleman's Emotional and Social Competence Inventory, or ESCI. All of these tests entail a fee and all must be administered by a professional. However a test to assess an individual's standing against Gardner's personality theory and a hybrid measure of Emotional Intelligence are available free on-line for anyone interested in getting at least an indication of their emotional intelligence.

Summary- Points to consider[edit | edit source]

The crystallisation of the concept now universally recognized as emotional intelligence has effectively occurred within the last century with most activity occurring since the late 1990s. The concept took wings when it successfully crossed the popular journalism/scientific divide spawning a new industry in terms of publications and companies offering intervention schemes to introduce Emotional Intelligence into schools and offices all over the world.

Emotional intelligence has had many champions and many critics in its relatively short existence. The main champions all have slightly different but coherent versions of the concept for which they have developed scientifically validating measurement tools. The critics focus on the lack of a unified theory of emotional intelligence and the absence of one universal test to question the true existence of emotional intelligence. Some also claim it is not clear that emotional intelligence is a distinct entity separate from personality traits and IQ. All of these criticisms have been refuted with strong evidence referred to in earlier parts of this chapter.

The evidence emerging after 20 years of experience suggests that emotional intelligence can be learned in school during childhood and aspects of it can also be acquired later through education and training. It’s also been connected with improved motivation and achievement both academically and in a business sense. Whether you see emotional intelligence as child of its time, a zeitgeist, a collection of particular personality traits or a set of abilities which help individuals negotiate interpersonal relationships (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso, 1999) , given time it may just turn out to be a construct that is important, meaningful and above all practically useful (Matthews,et al, 2004).

See also[edit | edit source]

Related book chapters

References[edit | edit source]

Bar-On, R. (2006). The Bar-On model of emotional-social intelligence (ESI). Psicothema, 18, 13-25.

Cherniss, C., Exstein, M., Goleman, D., & Weissberg, R.P. (2006). Emotional intelligence: What does the research really indicate? Educational Psychologist, 4(4), 239-245.

Ciarrochi, J., Forgas, J.P., & Mayer, J.D. (2001). Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life- A scientific Inquiry. Psychology Press. New York: NY.

Conte, J.M. (2005). A review and critique of emotional intelligence measures. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 443-440. doi: 10.1002/job.319

Dulewicz, V & Higgs (2004) Can emotional Intelligence be developed ? "International Journal of Human Resource Management" "15" (1), 95-111

Durlak, J., Weissberg, R., Dymnicki, A., Taylor, R., & Schellinger, K. (2011). The impact of enhancing students' social and emotional learning: a meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x

Gardner, H. (1998). A multiplicity of intelligences. Scientific American Presents, 18-23.

Goleman, D., Boyatsis, R., & McKee, A.(2002). Primal Leadership- Realising the power of Emotional Intelligence. Harvard Business School Publishing. Boston: Massachusetts.

Humphrey, N., Curran, A., Morris, E., Farrell, P., & Woods, K. (2007). Emotional intelligence and education: A critical review. Educational Psychology, 27(2), 235-254. doi:10.1080/01443410601066735

Hunt, E. (2008). Applying the Theory of Successful Intelligence to Education—The Good, the Bad, and the Ogre: Commentary on Sternberg et al. (2008). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(6), 509-515.

Kunnannett, J.T (2004) Emotional intelligence: The new science of interpersonal effectiveness. "Human resources Development Quarterly", "15" (4) 489-495

Lindebaum, D. (2009). Rhetoric or Remedy? A Critique on Developing Emotional Intelligence. Academy of Management Learning Education, "8" (2), 225-237.

Matthews, G., Roberts, R.D., & Zeidner, M. (2004). Seven myths about emotional intelligence. Psychology Inquiry, 15(3), 179-196.

Mayer, J. (2002). The effective leader: Understanding and applying emotional intelligence. Ivey Business Journal, 67(2), 1.

Mayer, J. D., & Cobb, C. D. (2000). Educational policy on emotional intelligence: Does it make sense? Educational Psychology Review, 12(2), 163-183. doi:10.1023/A:1009093231445

Mayer,J.D; Salovey,P & Caruso, D.R. (1999) Emotional Intelligence as Zeitgeist, as Personality, and as a mental Ability. Chapter in "Handbook of Emotional Intelligence". Bar-on, R., & Parker, J.D.A. (eds.,) Jossey Bass. San Francisco: USA.

Mayer, J.D., Salovey, P., Caruso, D.R & Sitarenios, G. (2001). Emotional Intelligence as a Standard Intelligence. Emotion 1(3), 232-242.

O'Neil, J. (1996). On emotional intelligence: A conversation with Daniel Goleman. Educational Leadership, 54(1), 6.

Pearman, R. (2011). THE LEADING EDGE: Using Emotional Intelligence to Enhance Performance. T+D, 65(3), 68.


Roberts, R.D., Zeidner,M., & Matthews, G. (2001). Does emotional intelligence meet traditional standards for an intelligence?. Some new data and conclusions. Emotion, 1, 196-231.

Sadri, G. (2011). Emotional Intelligence: Can It Be Taught?. T+D, 65(9), 84-85.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, cognition and personality, 9(3), 185-211.

Sheykholeslami, R., & Ahmadi, S. (2011). The relationship between emotional intelligence and academic satisfaction in students. Behavioral Science, 5(2), 135-142.

Slaski, M., & Cartwright, S. (2002). Health, performance and emotional intelligence: an exploratory study of retail manager. Stress & Health: Journal Of The International Society For The Investigation Of Stress, 18(2), 63-68. doi:10.1002/smi.926

Spearman, C. (1904). “General Intelligence”, objectively determined and measured. American Journal of Psychology 15, 201-293.

Thorndike, E.L. (1920).Intelligence and its uses. Harper's Magazine, 140, 227-235.

Thorndike, R.L., & Stein, S. (1937). An evaluation of the attempts to measure social intelligence. The Psychological Bulletin,34, 275-285.

Ugwu, L. I. (2011). Emotional and general Intelligence: Characteristics, meeting points and missing links. Asian Social Science, 7(7), 137-140.

Van Rooy, D.L., Viswesveran, C., & Pluta, P. (2005). An evaluation of construct validity: What is this thing called emotional intelligence? Human Performance, 18, 445-462.

Waterhouse, L. (2006). Multiple intelligences, the mozart effect and emotional intelligence: A critical review. Educational Psychologist, 41, 207-225.

Zeidner, M., Roberts, R. D., & Matthews, G. (2002). Can emotional intelligence be schooled? A critical review.Educational Psychologist, "37"(4), 215-231. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3704_2

External links[edit | edit source]