Part 1: Overview of Emotional Intelligence, History of Emotional Intelligence and Definitions of Emotional Intelligence



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Overview of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI), Emotional leadership (EL), Emotional quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ) (Shodganga, n.d.) is the capability of individuals to recognise their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s) (Colman, 2008).

Although the term first appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch, it gained popularity in the 1995 book by that title, written by author and science journalist Daniel Goleman (Goleman, 1995). Since this time, EI, and Goleman’s 1995 analysis, have been criticised within the scientific community (Murphy, 2006), despite prolific reports of its usefulness in the popular press (Chamorro-Premuzic and Sanger, 2017; Allen, 2017; Durlofsky, 2018; Nadesan, 2015).

Empathy is typically associated with EI, because it relates to an individual connecting their personal experiences with those of others.

However, a number of models exist that aim to measure levels of (empathy) EI.

There are currently several models of EI.

Goleman’s original model may now be considered a mixed model that combines what has since been modeled separately as ability EI and trait EI.

Goleman defined EI as the array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance (Goleman, 1998).

The trait model was developed by Konstantinos V. Petrides in 2001.

It “encompasses behavioral dispositions and self perceived abilities and is measured through self report” (Petrides and Furnham, 2001).

The ability model, developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 2004, focuses on the individual’s ability to process emotional information and use it to navigate the social environment (Salovey, Mayer and Caruso, 2004).

Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, job performance and leadership skills although no causal relationships have been shown and such findings are likely to be attributable to general intelligence and specific personality traits rather than emotional intelligence as a construct. For example, Goleman indicated that EI accounted for 67% of the abilities deemed necessary for superior performance in leaders, and mattered twice as much as technical expertise or IQ (Goleman, 1998).

Other research finds that the effect of EI on leadership and managerial performance is non-significant when ability and personality are controlled for (Cavazotte, Moreno and Hickmann, 2012), and that general intelligence correlates very closely with leadership (Atwater and Yammarinol, 1993). Markers of EI and methods of developing it have become more widely coveted in the past decade.

In addition, studies have begun to provide evidence to help characterise the neural mechanisms of emotional intelligence (Barbey, Colom and Grafman, 2012; Yates, 2013; HealthDay News, 2013).

Criticisms have centered on whether EI is a real intelligence and whether it has incremental validity over IQ and the ‘Big Five’ personality traits (Harms and Credé, 2010).

History of Emotional Intelligence

The term “emotional intelligence” seems first to have appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch (Beldoch, 1964), and in the 1966 paper by B. Leuner entitled ‘Emotional intelligence and emancipation’ which appeared in the psychotherapeutic journal: Practice of child psychology and child psychiatry (Leuner, 1966).

In 1983, Howard Gardner’s ‘Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences’ (Gardner, 1983) introduced the idea that traditional types of intelligence, such as IQ, fail to fully explain cognitive ability.

He introduced the idea of multiple intelligences which included both:

  • Interpersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people)


  • Intrapersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations) (Smith, 2002).

The term subsequently appeared in Wayne Payne’s doctoral thesis, ‘A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence’ in 1985 (Payne, 1983/1986).

The first published use of the term ‘EQ’ (Emotional Quotient) is an article by Keith Beasley in 1987 in the British Mensa magazine (Beasley, 1987).

In 1989 Stanley Greenspan put forward a model to describe EI, followed by another by Peter Salovey and John Mayer published in the following year (Salovey and Mayer, 1989).

However, the term became widely known with the publication of Goleman’s book: ‘Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ’ (Goleman, 1995).

It is to this book’s best selling status that the term can attribute its popularity (Goleman, 2014; Schawbel, 2012).

Goleman has followed up with several further popular publications of a similar theme that reinforce use of the term (Goleman, 1998; Goleman, 2006; Lantieri, 2008; Goleman, 2011; Goleman, 2011).

To date, tests measuring EI have not replaced IQ tests as a standard metric of intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence has also received criticism on its role in leadership and business success (Tobak, 2012).

The distinction between trait emotional intelligence and ability emotional intelligence was introduced in 2000 (Petrides and Furnham, 2000).

Definitions of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence has been defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior” by Peter Salovey and John Mayer (Salovey and Mayer, 1990, 1993).

This definition was later broken down and refined into four proposed abilities:

  • Perceiving Emotions
  • Using Emotions
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Managing emotions

These abilities are distinct yet related (Colman, 2008).

Emotional intelligence also reflects abilities to join intelligence, empathy and emotions to enhance thought and understanding of interpersonal dynamics (Mayer, 2008).

However, substantial disagreement exists regarding the definition of EI, with respect to both terminology and operationalisations.

Currently, there are three main models of EI:

  • Ability model
  • Mixed model (usually subsumed under trait EI) (Kluemper, 2008; Martins, Ramalho, Morin, 2010)
  • Trait model

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.

Specific ability models address the ways in which emotions facilitate thought and understanding.

For example, emotions may interact with thinking and allow people to be better decision makers (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005; Mayer, 2008).

A person who is more responsive emotionally to crucial issues will attend to the more crucial aspects of his or her life (Mayer, 2008).

Aspects of emotional facilitation factor is to also know how to include or exclude emotions from thought depending on context and situation (Mayer, 2008).

This is also related to emotional reasoning and understanding in response to the people, environment and circumstances one encounters in his or her day to day life (Mayer, 2008).

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