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Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. It can be divided into ability EI and trait EI.
The earliest roots of emotional intelligence can be traced to Charles Darwin's work on the importance of emotional expression for survival and, second, adaptation. In the 1900s, even though traditional definitions of intelligence emphasized cognitive aspects such as memory and problem-solving, several influential researchers in the intelligence field of study had begun to recognize the importance of the non-cognitive aspects. For instance, as early as 1920, E.L. Thorndike used the term social intelligence to describe the skill of understanding and managing other people.
Similarly, in 1940 David Wechsler described the influence of non-intellective factors on intelligent behavior, and further argued that our models of intelligence would not be complete until we could adequately describe these factors. In 1983, Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences introduced the idea of multiple intelligences which included both interpersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people) and intrapersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one's feelings, fears and motivations). In Gardner's view, traditional types of intelligence, such as IQ, fail to fully explain cognitive ability. Thus, even though the names given to the concept varied, there was a common belief that traditional definitions of intelligence were lacking in ability to fully explain performance outcomes.
The first use of the term "emotional intelligence" is usually attributed to Wayne Payne's doctoral thesis, A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence from 1985. However, prior to this, the term "emotional intelligence" had appeared in Leuner (1966). Stanley Greenspan (1989) also put forward an EI model, followed by Salovey and Mayer (1990), and Daniel Goleman (1995). The distinction between trait emotional intelligence and ability emotional intelligence was introduced in 2000.
Substantial disagreement exists regarding the definition of EI, with respect to both terminology and operationalizations. Currently, there are three main models of EI:
Different models of EI have led to the development of various instruments for the assessment of the construct. While some of these measures may overlap, most researchers agree that they tap different constructs.
Salovey and Mayer's conception of EI strives to define EI within the confines of the standard criteria for a new intelligence. Following their continuing research, their initial definition of EI was revised to "The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth."
The ability-based model views emotions as useful sources of information that help one to make sense of and navigate the social environment. The model proposes that individuals vary in their ability to process information of an emotional nature and in their ability to relate emotional processing to a wider cognition. This ability is seen to manifest itself in certain adaptive behaviors. The model claims that EI includes four types of abilities:
- Perceiving emotions – the ability to detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural artifacts—including the ability to identify one's own emotions. Perceiving emotions represents a basic aspect of emotional intelligence, as it makes all other processing of emotional information possible.
- Using emotions – the ability to harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem solving. The emotionally intelligent person can capitalize fully upon his or her changing moods in order to best fit the task at hand.
- Understanding emotions – the ability to comprehend emotion language and to appreciate complicated relationships among emotions. For example, understanding emotions encompasses the ability to be sensitive to slight variations between emotions, and the ability to recognize and describe how emotions evolve over time.
- Managing emotions – the ability to regulate emotions in both ourselves and in others. Therefore, the emotionally intelligent person can harness emotions, even negative ones, and manage them to achieve intended goals.
The ability EI model has been criticized in the research for lacking face and predictive validity in the workplace.
The current measure of Mayer and Salovey's model of EI, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is based on a series of emotion-based problem-solving items. Consistent with the model's claim of EI as a type of intelligence, the test is modeled on ability-based IQ tests. By testing a person's abilities on each of the four branches of emotional intelligence, it generates scores for each of the branches as well as a total score.
Central to the four-branch model is the idea that EI requires attunement to social norms. Therefore, the MSCEIT is scored in a consensus fashion, with higher scores indicating higher overlap between an individual's answers and those provided by a worldwide sample of respondents. The MSCEIT can also be expert-scored, so that the amount of overlap is calculated between an individual's answers and those provided by a group of 21 emotion researchers.
Although promoted as an ability test, the MSCEIT is unlike standard IQ tests in that its items do not have objectively correct responses. Among other challenges, the consensus scoring criterion means that it is impossible to create items (questions) that only a minority of respondents can solve, because, by definition, responses are deemed emotionally "intelligent" only if the majority of the sample has endorsed them. This and other similar problems have led some cognitive ability experts to question the definition of EI as a genuine intelligence.
In a study by Føllesdal, the MSCEIT test results of 111 business leaders were compared with how their employees described their leader. It was found that there were no correlations between a leader's test results and how he or she was rated by the employees, with regard to empathy, ability to motivate, and leader effectiveness. Føllesdal also criticized the Canadian company Multi-Health Systems, which administers the MSCEIT test. The test contains 141 questions but it was found after publishing the test that 19 of these did not give the expected answers. This has led Multi-Health Systems to remove answers to these 19 questions before scoring, but without stating this officially.
The model introduced by Daniel Goleman focuses on EI as a wide array of competencies and skills that drive leadership performance. Goleman's model outlines five main EI constructs (for more details see "What Makes A Leader" by Daniel Goleman, best of Harvard Business Review 1998):
- Self-awareness – the ability to know one's emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
- Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one's disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
- Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction
- Empathy - considering other people's feelings especially when making decisions and
- Motivation - being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.
Goleman includes a set of emotional competencies within each construct of EI. Emotional competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that must be worked on and can be developed to achieve outstanding performance. Goleman posits that individuals are born with a general emotional intelligence that determines their potential for learning emotional competencies. Goleman's model of EI has been criticized in the research literature as mere "pop psychology" (Mayer, Roberts, & Barsade, 2008).
Two measurement tools are based on the Goleman model:
- The Emotional Competency Inventory (ECI), which was created in 1999, and the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI), which was created in 2007.
- The Emotional Intelligence Appraisal, which was created in 2001 and which can be taken as a self-report or 360-degree assessment.
Soviet-born British psychologist Konstantin Vasily Petrides ("K. V. Petrides") proposed a conceptual distinction between the ability based model and a trait based model of EI and has been developing the latter over many years in numerous scientific publications. Trait EI is "a constellation of emotional self-perceptions located at the lower levels of personality." In lay terms, trait EI refers to an individual's self-perceptions of their emotional abilities. This definition of EI encompasses behavioral dispositions and self perceived abilities and is measured by self report, as opposed to the ability based model which refers to actual abilities, which have proven highly resistant to scientific measurement. Trait EI should be investigated within a personality framework. An alternative label for the same construct is trait emotional self-efficacy.
The trait EI model is general and subsumes the Goleman and Bar-On models discussed above. The conceptualization of EI as a personality trait leads to a construct that lies outside the taxonomy of human cognitive ability. This is an important distinction in as much as it bears directly on the operationalization of the construct and the theories and hypotheses that are formulated about it.
There are many self-report measures of EI, including the EQ-i, the Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test (SUEIT), and the Schutte EI model. None of these assess intelligence, abilities, or skills (as their authors often claim), but rather, they are limited measures of trait emotional intelligence. One of the more comprehensive and widely researched measures of this construct is the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue), which was specifically designed to measure the construct comprehensively and is available in many languages.
The TEIQue provides an operationalization for the model of Petrides and colleagues, that conceptualizes EI in terms of personality. The test encompasses 15 subscales organized under four factors: Well-Being, Self-Control, Emotionality, and Sociability. The psychometric properties of the TEIQue were investigated in a study on a French-speaking population, where it was reported that TEIQue scores were globally normally distributed and reliable.
The researchers also found TEIQue scores were unrelated to nonverbal reasoning (Raven's matrices), which they interpreted as support for the personality trait view of EI (as opposed to a form of intelligence). As expected, TEIQue scores were positively related to some of the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness) as well as inversely related to others (alexithymia, neuroticism). A number of quantitative genetic studies have been carried out within the trait EI model, which have revealed significant genetic effects and heritabilities for all trait EI scores. Two recent studies (one a meta-analysis) involving direct comparisons of multiple EI tests yielded very favorable results for the TEIQue.
Bar-On defines emotional intelligence as being concerned with effectively understanding oneself and others, relating well to people, and adapting to and coping with the immediate surroundings to be more successful in dealing with environmental demands. Bar-On posits that EI develops over time and that it can be improved through training, programming, and therapy. Bar-On hypothesizes that those individuals with higher than average EQs are in general more successful in meeting environmental demands and pressures. He also notes that a deficiency in EI can mean a lack of success and the existence of emotional problems. Problems in coping with one's environment are thought, by Bar-On, to be especially common among those individuals lacking in the subscales of reality testing, problem solving, stress tolerance, and impulse control. In general, Bar-On considers emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence to contribute equally to a person's general intelligence, which then offers an indication of one's potential to succeed in life. However, doubts have been expressed about this model in the research literature (in particular about the validity of self-report as an index of emotional intelligence) and in scientific settings it is being replaced by the trait emotional intelligence (trait EI) model discussed below.
The Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), is a self-report measure of EI developed as a measure of emotionally and socially competent behavior that provides an estimate of one's emotional and social intelligence. The EQ-i is not meant to measure personality traits or cognitive capacity, but rather the mental ability to be successful in dealing with environmental demands and pressures. One hundred and thirty three items (questions or factors) are used to obtain a Total EQ (Total Emotional Quotient) and to produce five composite scale scores, corresponding to the five main components of the Bar-On model. A limitation of this model is that it claims to measure some kind of ability through self-report items (for a discussion, see Matthews, Zeidner, & Roberts, 2001). The EQ-i has been found to be highly susceptible to faking (Day & Carroll, 2008; Grubb & McDaniel, 2007).
Alexithymia from the Greek words "λέξις" (lexis) and "θυμός" (thumos) (literally "lack of words for emotions") is a term coined by Peter Sifneos in 1973 to describe people who appeared to have deficiencies in understanding, processing, or describing their emotions. Viewed as a spectrum between high and low EI, the alexithymia construct is strongly inversely related to EI, representing its lower range. The individual's level of alexithymia can be measured with self-scored questionnaires such as the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) or the Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire (BVAQ) or by observer rated measures such as the Observer Alexithymia Scale (OAS).
Criticisms of theoretical foundation
Cannot be recognized as form of intelligence
Goleman's early work has been criticized for assuming from the beginning that EI is a type of intelligence. Eysenck (2000) writes that Goleman's description of EI contains unsubstantiated assumptions about intelligence in general, and that it even runs contrary to what researchers have come to expect when studying types of intelligence:
"[Goleman] exemplifies more clearly than most the fundamental absurdity of the tendency to class almost any type of behaviour as an 'intelligence'... If these five 'abilities' define 'emotional intelligence', we would expect some evidence that they are highly correlated; Goleman admits that they might be quite uncorrelated, and in any case if we cannot measure them, how do we know they are related? So the whole theory is built on quicksand: there is no sound scientific basis."
Similarly, Locke (2005) claims that the concept of EI is in itself a misinterpretation of the intelligence construct, and he offers an alternative interpretation: it is not another form or type of intelligence, but intelligence—the ability to grasp abstractions—applied to a particular life domain: emotions. He suggests the concept should be re-labeled and referred to as a skill.
The essence of this criticism is that scientific inquiry depends on valid and consistent construct utilization, and that before the introduction of the term EI, psychologists had established theoretical distinctions between factors such as abilities and achievements, skills and habits, attitudes and values, and personality traits and emotional states. Thus, some scholars believe that the term EI merges and conflates such accepted concepts and definitions.
Has little predictive value
Landy (2005) claimed that the few incremental validity studies conducted on EI have shown that it adds little or nothing to the explanation or prediction of some common outcomes (most notably academic and work success). Landy suggested that the reason why some studies have found a small increase in predictive validity is a methodological fallacy, namely, that alternative explanations have not been completely considered:
"EI is compared and contrasted with a measure of abstract intelligence but not with a personality measure, or with a personality measure but not with a measure of academic intelligence." Landy (2005)
Similarly, other researchers have raised concerns about the extent to which self-report EI measures correlate with established personality dimensions. Generally, self-report EI measures and personality measures have been said to converge because they both purport to measure personality traits. Specifically, there appear to be two dimensions of the Big Five that stand out as most related to self-report EI – neuroticism and extroversion. In particular, neuroticism has been said to relate to negative emotionality and anxiety. Intuitively, individuals scoring high on neuroticism are likely to score low on self-report EI measures.
The interpretations of the correlations between EI questionnaires and personality have been varied. The prominent view in the scientific literature is the Trait EI view, which re-interprets EI as a collection of personality traits.
Criticisms of measurement issues
Ability model measures measure conformity, not ability
One criticism of the works of Mayer and Salovey comes from a study by Roberts et al. (2001), which suggests that the EI, as measured by the MSCEIT, may only be measuring conformity. This argument is rooted in the MSCEIT's use of consensus-based assessment, and in the fact that scores on the MSCEIT are negatively distributed (meaning that its scores differentiate between people with low EI better than people with high EI).
Ability model measures measure knowledge (not actual ability)
Further criticism has been leveled by Brody (2004), who claimed that unlike tests of cognitive ability, the MSCEIT "tests knowledge of emotions but not necessarily the ability to perform tasks that are related to the knowledge that is assessed". The main argument is that even though someone knows how he should behave in an emotionally laden situation, it doesn't necessarily follow that the person could actually carry out the reported behavior.
Ability model measures measure personality and general intelligence
New research is surfacing that suggests that ability EI measures might be measuring personality in addition to general intelligence. These studies examined the multivariate effects of personality and intelligence on EI and also corrected estimates for measurement error (which is often not done in some validation studies). For example, a study by Schulte, Ree, Carretta (2004), showed that general intelligence (measured with the Wonderlic Personnel Test), agreeableness (measured by the NEO-PI), as well as gender had a multiple R of .81 with the MSCEIT. This result has been replicated by Fiori and Antonakis (2011),; they found a multiple R of .76 using Cattell’s “Culture Fair” intelligence test and the Big Five Inventory (BFI); significant covariates were intelligence (standardized beta = .39), agreeableness (standardized beta = .54), and openness (standardized beta = .46). Antonakis and Dietz (2011a), who investigated the Ability Emotional Intelligence Measure found similar results (Multiple R = .69), with significant predictors being intelligence, standardized beta = .69 (using the Swaps Test and a Wechsler scales subtest, the 40-item General Knowledge Task) and empathy, standardized beta = .26 (using the Questionnaire Measure of Empathic Tendency)--see also Antonakis and Dietz (2011b), who show how including or excluding important controls variables can fundamentally change results—thus, it is important to always include important controls like personality and intelligence when examining the predictive validity of ability and trait EI models.
Self-report measures are susceptible to faking
More formally termed socially desirable responding (SDR), faking good is defined as a response pattern in which test-takers systematically represent themselves with an excessive positive bias (Paulhus, 2002). This bias has long been known to contaminate responses on personality inventories (Holtgraves, 2004; McFarland & Ryan, 2000; Peebles & Moore, 1998; Nichols & Greene, 1997; Zerbe & Paulhus, 1987), acting as a mediator of the relationships between self-report measures (Nichols & Greene, 1997; Ganster et al., 1983[full citation needed]).
It has been suggested that responding in a desirable way is a response set, which is a situational and temporary response pattern (Pauls & Crost, 2004; Paulhus, 1991). This is contrasted with a response style, which is a more long-term trait-like quality. Considering the contexts some self-report EI inventories are used in (e.g., employment settings), the problems of response sets in high-stakes scenarios become clear (Paulhus & Reid, 2001).
There are a few methods to prevent socially desirable responding on behavior inventories. Some researchers believe it is necessary to warn test-takers not to fake good before taking a personality test (e.g., McFarland, 2003). Some inventories use validity scales in order to determine the likelihood or consistency of the responses across all items.
Claims for predictive power are too extreme
Landy distinguishes between the "commercial wing" and "the academic wing" of the EI movement, basing this distinction on the alleged predictive power of EI as seen by the two currents. According to Landy, the former makes expansive claims on the applied value of EI, while the latter is trying to warn users against these claims. As an example, Goleman (1998) asserts that "the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. ...emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership". In contrast, Mayer (1999) cautions "the popular literature's implication—that highly emotionally intelligent people possess an unqualified advantage in life—appears overly enthusiastic at present and unsubstantiated by reasonable scientific standards." Landy further reinforces this argument by noting that the data upon which these claims are based are held in "proprietary databases", which means they are unavailable to independent researchers for reanalysis, replication, or verification. Thus, the credibility of the findings cannot be substantiated in a scientific way, unless those datasets are made public and available for independent analysis.
In an academic exchange, Antonakis and Ashkanasy/Dasborough mostly agreed that researchers testing whether EI matters for leadership have not done so using robust research designs; therefore, currently there is no strong evidence showing that EI predicts leadership outcomes when accounting for personality and IQ. Antonakis argued that EI might not be needed for leadership effectiveness (he referred to this as the "curse of emotion" phenomenon, because leaders who are too sensitive to their and others' emotional states might have difficulty making decisions that would result in emotional labor for the leader or followers). A recently-published meta-analysis seems to support the Antonakis position: In fact, Harms and Credé found that overall (and using data free from problems of common source and common methods), EI measures correlated only ρ = 0.11 with measures of transformational leadership. Interestingly, ability-measures of EI fared worst (i.e., ρ = 0.04); the WLEIS (Wong-Law measure) did a bit better (ρ = 0.08), and the Bar-On measure better still (ρ = 0.18). However, the validity of these estimates does not include the effects of IQ or the big five personality, which correlate both with EI measures and leadership. In a subsequent paper analyzing the impact of EI on both job performance and leadership, Harms and Credé found that the meta-analytic validity estimates for EI dropped to zero when Big Five traits and IQ were controlled for. Joseph and Newman meta-analytically showed the same result for Ability EI, but further demonstrated that self-reported and Trait EI measures retain a small amount of predictive validity for job performance after controlling Big Five traits and IQ. Newman, Joseph, and MacCann contend that the greater predictive validity of Trait EI measures is due to their inclusion of content related to achievement motivation, self efficacy, and self-rated performance.
NICHD pushes for consensus
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has recognized the divide on the topic of emotional intelligence explains the need for the mental health community to agree on some guidelines to describe good mental health and positive mental living conditions. In their section, "Positive Psychology and the Concept of Health," they explain. "Currently there are six competing models of positive health, which are based on concepts such as being above normal, character strengths and core virtues, developmental maturity, social-emotional intelligence, subjective well-being, and resilience. But these concepts define health in philosophical rather than empirical terms. Dr. [Lawrence] Becker suggested the need for a consensus on the concept of positive psychological health..."
EI and job performance
Research of EI and job performance shows mixed results: a positive relation has been found in some of the studies, in others there was no relation or an inconsistent one. This led researchers Cote and Miners (2006) to offer a compensatory model between EI and IQ, that posits that the association between EI and job performance becomes more positive as cognitive intelligence decreases, an idea first proposed in the context of academic performance (Petrides, Frederickson, & Furnham, 2004). The results of the former study supported the compensatory model: employees with low IQ get higher task performance and organizational citizenship behavior directed at the organization, the higher their EI.
A meta-analytic review by Joseph and Newman also revealed that both Ability EI and Trait EI tend to predict job performance much better in jobs that require a high degree of emotional labor (where 'emotional labor' was defined as jobs that require the effective display of positive emotion). In contrast, EI shows little relationship to job performance in jobs that do not require emotional labor. In other words, emotional intelligence tends to predict job performance for emotional jobs only.
A more recent study suggests that EI is not necessarily a universally positive trait. They found a negative correlation between EI and managerial work demands; while under low levels of managerial work demands, they found a negative relationship between EI and teamwork effectiveness. An explanation for this may suggest gender differences in EI, as women tend to score higher levels than men. This furthers the idea that job context plays a role in the relationships between EI, teamwork effectiveness, and job performance.
Another interesting find was discussed in a study that assessed a possible link between EI and entrepreneurial behaviors and success. In accordance with much of the other findings regarding EI and job performance, they found that levels of EI only predicted a small amount of entrepreneurial behavior.
Self-esteem and drug use
A 2012 study cross examined emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and marijuana dependence. Out of a sample of 200, 100 of which were dependent on cannabis and the other 100 emotionally healthy, the dependent group scored exceptionally low on EI when compared to the control group. They also found that the dependent group also scored low on self-esteem when compared to the control.
Another study in 2010 examined whether or not low levels of EI had a relationship with the degree of drug and alcohol addiction. In the assessment of 103 residents in a drug rehabilitation center, they examined their EI along with other psychosocial factors in a 1 month interval of treatment. They found that participants' EI scores improved as their levels of addiction lessened as part of their treatment.
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