Intelligence, Emotional from Encyclopedia of Special Education: A Reference for the Education of Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Disabilities and Other Exceptional Individuals
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Although all humans experience emotions, individuals markedly differ in the extent to which they
experience, attend to, identify, understand, regulate, and use their emotions and those of others. The
term emotional intelligence (EI) first appeared in a book by (Van Ghent), soon followed by an article by
(Leuner). Because the former was unrelated to psychology and the latter was published in German, the
concept remained largely unnoticed. The first English occurrence in Psychology was in a doctoral
dissertation by (Payne). (Peter Salovey and John Mayer) opened a modern line of research, started a
hot topic in psychology, and coined a catchphrase that has made its way into the common vernacular.
The subsequent fame and widespread use of the term emotional intelligence is due mostly to the
popular best seller of the same name by (Daniel Goleman). This enormous popularity, however, has
come at the unfortunate cost of obscuring Salovey and Mayer’s original conception of emotional
intelligence and overshadowing subsequent empirical research. This resulted in the formation of three
distinct concepts of EI, each containing its own definition and approach. (Caruso, Mayer, and Salovey)
dubbed two of these approaches the mixed model and the ability model. The mixed model, the more
popular of the two, merges EI with characteristics of personality and certain skills. The ability model
characterizes emotional intelligence as a class of intelligence where emotions and thinking are
integrated (Caruso et al.,). Other authors held that EI was conceptually (inversely) related to the
personality dimensions of neuroticism and alexithymia (among others) and should therefore be
conceived as a set of affect-related traits (Petrides & Furnham,).
The idea that emotion is a significant part of our intellectual being has roots in Darwin and Freud and,
more recently, in the work of (Howard Gardner). In Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, two of his
proposed seven intelligences involve emotions: interpersonal intelligence (understanding other people)
and intrapersonal intelligence (understanding one’s self). Robert Sternberg’s theory of successful
intelligence (also known as practical intelligence) is another major theory of intellect that takes into
consideration the importance of emotional well-being (see Sternberg & Kaufman,). The common
historical view, however, is that emotions are secondary—indeed, inferior to intellect (Mayer, Salovey, &
In 1990, Salovey and Mayer proposed a model of emotional intelligence that had three factors:
appraisal and expression of emotion, regulation of emotion, and utilization of emotion. Appraisal and
expression of emotion is comprised of emotion in the self (which can be both verbal and nonverbal),
and emotion in others. Emotion in others consists of nonverbal perception of emotion and empathy.
The second factor, regulation of emotion, is the ability to regulate emotion in the self, and the ability to
regulate and alter emotions in other people. The final factor, utilizing emotional intelligence, has four
aspects: flexible planning, creative thinking, redirected attention, and motivation. Flexible planning refers
to the ability to produce a large number of different plans for the future, enabling the planner to better
respond to opportunities. This production of many plans can result from using emotion and mood
changes to one’s advantage and from looking at a wide variety of possibilities. Creative thinking, the
second aspect, may be more likely to occur if a person is happy and in a good mood. Redirected
attention involves the idea that when strong emotions are experienced, a person’s resources and
attentions may be tuned to new problems. People who can use this phenomenon to their own benefit
will be able to use a potentially stressful situation to focus on the most important or pressing issues
involved. Motivation emotions, the final principle of emotional intelligence, refers to the art of making
one’s self continue to perform difficult tasks by focusing one’s anxiety or tension toward the
performance of that task.
Mayer and Salovey compressed their theory into four branches of ability: (1) perceiving, appraising, and
expressing emotions; (2) accessing and producing feelings in aid of cognition; (3) comprehending
information on affect and using emotional knowledge; and (4) regulating emotions for growth and
contentment (Mayer & Salovey,). These branches are categorized in a certain order to show how much
ability is incorporated into personality (Mayer et al.,). The branches create a hierarchy where the ability
to regulate emotions is positioned at the top and the capacity to perceive emotion is placed at its
bottom. The first branch, perception of emotion, is the degree to which one is able to distinguish
emotion in other individuals, by utilizing cues from facial expression and body language. The second
branch, facilitation, comes into play once emotion is recognized, which involves the integration of
emotion with cognitive processes. The third branch, the understanding of emotions, is the ability to
analyze emotions, to recognize the most likely path they will take over time, and to become aware of
their aftereffects. The fourth branch, the management of emotion, is the ability to control emotions in
order to meet an individual’s set goals, having an understanding of one’s self, and having societal
awareness (Mayer et al.,).
Contrary to the ability perspective that was theory-driven and then empirically tested, the trait EI
perspective was empirically driven and then theorized. To facilitate EI testing in research, educational,
and business settings, several authors translated ability models into self-report instruments (e.g. Schutte
et al.,). The high correlations found between self-reported EI scores and personality traits led (Petrides
and Furnham) to coin the term trait emotional intelligence. From the trait EI perspective, EI is a
constellation of emotion-related dispositions capturing the extent to which people attend to, identify,
understand, regulate, and utilize their emotions and those of others. Greater trait EI corresponds to a
profile of dispositions that leads to greater adaptation.
The trait EI perspective views EI as a cluster of lower-order personality traits (Petrides, Pita, &
Kokkinaki,). EI therefore encompasses two kinds of variance: one portion of variance already covered
by established personality taxonomies (e.g., the Giant Three or the Big Five) and one portion of
variance that lies outside these dimensions (Petrides et al.,). In accordance with this view, trait EI has
been evaluated using personality-like questionnaires.
The trait EI perspective uses self-reports, which barely reflect self-perceptions and therefore constitute
unreliable assessments of objective competencies. Although this premise appears acceptable in the
first instance, this argument proved to be incorrect as trait EI does relate to objective criteria. First, trait
EI has neurobiological correlates, such as the level of asymmetry in the resting activation of frontal
cortical areas (i.e., Kemp et al., ) or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity in stressful situations
(Mikolajczak, Roy, Luminet, Fillée, & de Timary,; Salovey, Woolery, Stroud, & Epel,). Studies on individuals
with lesions in key emotion brain areas also revealed that these people have lower levels of trait EI
than normal controls (Bar-On, Tranel, Denburg, & Bechara,). It is noteworthy that the effect sizes in
these studies were not only statistically significant, but that most of them were large according to
(Cohen’s norms). Second, trait EI correlates with the speed of emotional information processing (Austin,,
). Third, trait EI predicts objective life-outcomes such as work performance (e.g., Bradberry & Su,; Law,
Wong, & Song,; Van Rooy, & Viswesvaran,), income (Petrides & Furnham,), number of school exclusions
or unauthorized absences (e.g., Mavroveli, Petrides, Shove, & Whitehead, ), cooperation (Schutte et al.,
2001) or peer-rated sociability and popularity (Petrides, Sangareau, Furnham, & Frederickson,).
The second critique addressed to the trait EI perspective is that it correlates too much with existing
personality traits to be useful. According to (Gignac, Jang, and Bates), the common practice of comparing
EI to the NEO PIR is flawed logic, as the NEO is such a big construct that it encompasses almost
everything and is so general that there is redundancy within the NEO itself. The trait EI construct is
useful because it organizes under a single framework the main individual differences in affectivity, which
have been up to now scattered across the basic Big Five dimensions (neuroticism, extraversion,
openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) and other models (Gignac,). This critique is also
refuted by the numerous studies showing that trait EI explains additional variance over and above
related traits such as alexithymia or the Big Five, to predict criteria as diverse as cortisol secretion amid
stress (e.g., Mikolajczak et al.,), academic success (e.g., Van der Zee, Thijs, & Schakel, ), and work
performance (e.g., Van Rooy, & Viswesvaran, ), to name but a few.
The trait EI perspective is criticized for measuring abilities that may not have been put into practice.
However, it is not because abilities are not always used that they ought not to be measured. On the
contrary, it is extremely useful to know whether the individuals who behave in a nonemotionally
intelligent manner lack the underlying abilities or just do not use their abilities. Remediation perspectives
(therapies in clinical settings, trainings in organizational settings) would indeed drastically differ
depending on the source of the problem. The second critique addressed to the ability perspective
concerns the psychometrical properties of its measures (i.e., scoring method at odds with the theory,
low reliabilities), which would prove that abilities cannot be measured. However, the fact that the tests
are not yet optimal does not undermine the quality of the underlying idea. Moreover, abilities have long
been successfully measured in assessment centers (e.g., through role plays) or in laboratories (e.g., by
asking people to regulate their emotions and measuring their physiological parameters; Mikolajczak,).
(Mikolajczak) suggests a unifying three-level model of EI. According to the three-level model, EI aims to
capture individual differences in emotion-related knowledge, abilities, and dispositions. Knowledge
refers to the complexity of emotion-related knowledge. Abilities refer to emotion-related abilities to
implement a given strategy in an emotional situation and dispositions refer to the propensity to behave
in a certain way in emotional situations.
Can emotional intelligence be measured? There are some tests of emotional intelligence that exist:
The Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQI; Bar-On,), the Self Report Emotional Intelligence Test
(SREIT; see Brackett & Mayer,), the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT;
Brackett & Mayer,), the Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS; Salovey, Mayer, Goldman, Turvey, & Palfai,), the
Schutte Self Report Emotional Intelligence (SSREI: Schutte, Malouff, & Bhullar, ), the adolescent
Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test (Adolescent SUEIT; Luebbers, Downey, & Stough,
2003). The validity of such tests has been called into question as most of these measures are self
reports and have psychometric properties that are largely unknown. However, the MSCEIT uses a
consensus to score participants in place of self reports (Mayer et al.,) and measures emotional
intelligence based on cognitive ability (Brackett & Mayer,), making it a more reliable measure than tests
solely using methods of self-report.
(Mayer et al.) argue that emotional intelligence meets many of the current standards used to measure
intelligence. Indeed, they make the assertion that emotional intelligence works through cognitions that
deal directly with matters of personal, or emotional, importance. In their study, they showed that
measures of emotional intelligences meet three standard criteria of a new intelligence by using the
MSCEIT. The first criterion is that the test questions could be confirmed as either correct or incorrect.
The second condition is that there are connections in emotional intelligence that directly relate to the
ones of a standard intelligence. The third decisive factor is that when time passes, emotional
intelligence continues to develop within that individual.
Emotional intelligence is still a young discipline, and much of the research and scholarship to date has
been in defining exactly what are the parameters and boundaries of “emotional intelligence.” While
Salovey, Mayer, and colleagues define emotional intelligence in terms of how well people can
understand and control their own emotions and those of others, there are several other extensions of
the terms. Motivation, cognition, and morality have also been dubbed aspects of emotional intelligence
(Salovey et al., 1999). (Goleman), in his popular book on the topic, extended the definition even further.
His conception of emotional intelligence encompasses impulse control, enthusiasm, social acumen, and
persistence, as well as the other variables already mentioned. In 1998, Goleman revised his model of
emotional intelligence (Mayer,), extending its fields to include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation,
empathy, and social skills.
Future directions in emotional intelligence research, according to (Mayer et al.), will likely be
concentrated in the following areas: finding the correlations between emotional intelligence and more
traditional types of intelligence and personality traits; assessing cultural differences and similarities in
emotional intelligence (both abilities and definitions); developing more empirical measures of the
construct, and determining if these measures predict an advantageous effect on academic, personal,
and professional success; and using a larger range of age groups to determine how emotional
intelligence develops over time.
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