What is Emotional Intelligence?
A concept that is gaining greater awareness in recent times is ‘emotional intelligence’ or ‘emotional intelligence quotient (EQ)’ - which refers to the ability to assess and manage your own emotions as well as that of others or even of entire groups.
The concept of emotional intelligence was first suggested by Charles Darwin who emphasised the importance of emotional expression in adaptation and survival. Subsequently, researchers in the intelligence field realised that while most studies of intelligence emphasised the cognitive aspects (e.g. problem-solving), the non-cognitive aspects were very important as well.
In fact, many believe that models of intelligence would not be complete without including these non-intellective factors. This has led to the development of the multiple intelligences model, which includes concepts like social intelligence, the skill of understanding and managing people, and intrapersonal intelligence, the ability to understand and appreciate your own feelings, motivations and fears.
With the publication of Daniel Goleman's best seller “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, the term ‘emotional intelligence’ became widely popularised and entered mainstream interest.
Models of Emotional IntelligenceAlthough emotional intelligence was first officially defined in 1990 by Salovey and Mayer as “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” – arguments over the definition still abound today. Part of the problem is the ongoing confusion over the exact meaning of the term and the rapid growth of the field, which means that researchers are having to constantly amend their own definitions.
However, at present, there are 3 main accepted models of emotional intelligence:
Ability-based EI Models – following on from Salovey and Mayer’s initial concept, this defines emotional intelligence as "The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth". Thus in this model, emotions are useful tools to help us navigate our social environments and people exhibit different competencies in 4 types of abilities:
- The ability to perceive emotions by detecting and deciphering emotions in faces, voices, pictures and even cultural artefacts
- The ability to use emotions to facilitate certain cognitive activities, such as problem-solving (e.g. being aware of your changing moods and using them to best fit the task to be performed.)
- The ability to understand emotions, by comprehending emotional language and even the complicated relationships between emotions.
- The ability to manage emotions so that they can be harnessed, even negative ones, to achieve certain goals.
Trait EI Model – this model of emotional intelligence focuses more on the personality framework and is defined as "a constellation of behavioural dispositions and self-perceptions concerning one’s ability to recognize, process, and utilize emotion-laden information". In other words, in this model, emotional intelligence is regarded as a personality trait and a distinct branch from the taxonomy of human cognitive ability.
Mixed Models of EI – these focus on more practical aspects of emotional intelligence. The first, the Emotional Competencies or Goleman model was introduced by Daniel Goleman and defines emotional intelligence as “a wide array of competencies and skills that drive managerial performance”. In fact, Goleman claims that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor or success in the workplace. He also believes that emotional competencies are not inborn talents but actually learned capabilities which can be developed to improve performance.
The second model, called the Bar-On model of Emotional-Social Intelligence (ESI) was developed by psychologist Reuven Bar-On. He defined emotional intelligence as the ability to understand yourself and others, to relate well to people and to cope with environmental demands.
Bar-On also believes that emotional intelligence can be improved with training and therapy and even developed the first measure of emotional intelligence, as the “Emotion Quotient”. Individuals with high EQ’s are more successful at meeting the demands of their environment.
Those with a deficiency tend to have problems coping due to poor abilities in reality testing, problem-solving, impulse control and stress tolerance. Bar-On believes that emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence play equally important roles in a person’s potential to succeed in life.
Emotional Intelligence – a Useful Concept?There is quite a lot of controversy surrounding emotional intelligence, despite the concept’s popularity in recent times. Some critics argue that emotional intelligence has no substantial predictive value and measures are inconsistent, therefore it can play no useful role.
Others have even stated that emotional intelligence cannot be recognised as a form of intelligence, in particular Goleman’s definition of the concept, and that it would be better to re-label the concept as a skill. These contradictory theories may be partly due to the fact that it is a relatively new area of psychological research and therefore definitions are either too broadly defined or constantly changing. With continuing research in this area, a clearer picture may be formed.