Emotional Intelligence, ‘missing link’ in Performance?

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When emotional intelligence first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into what many people had always assumed was the sole source of success—IQ. Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack.

Emotional intelligence can be 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. However, substantial disagreement exists regarding the definition of EI, with respect to both terminology and operationalizations.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is 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. There are three models of EI. The ability model, developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, focuses on the individual’s ability to process emotional information and use it to navigate the social environment. The trait model as developed by Konstantin Vasily Petrides, “encompasses behavioral dispositions and self perceived abilities and is measured through self report”. The the mixed model is a combination of both ability and trait EI. It defines EI as an array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance, as proposed by Daniel Goleman.

Currently, there are three main models of EI:

  1. Ability model
  2. Mixed model (usually subsumed under trait EI)
  3. 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.

In 1983, Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences [pdf] 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) and intrapersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations).

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.

The first published use of ‘EQ’ (Emotional Quotient) seems to be by Keith Beasley in 1987 in an article in the British Mensa magazine. However, prior to this, the term “emotional intelligence” had appeared in Beldoch (1964), Leuner (1966).

Stanley Greenspan (1989) also put forward an EI model, followed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer (1989). The distinction between trait emotional intelligence and ability emotional intelligence was introduced in 2000.

However, the term became widely known with the publication of Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ (1995). It is to this book’s best-selling status that the term can attribute its popularity. Goleman has followed up with several further popular publications of a similar theme that reinforce use of the term.

“Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values.” —Joshua L. Liebman

Measurement

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.

MSCEITCentral 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.

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.

Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, exemplary job performance, and more potent leadership skills. Markers of EI and methods of developing it have become more widely coveted in the past few decades. In addition, studies have begun to provide evidence to help characterize the neural mechanisms of emotional intelligence.

Criticisms have centered on whether EI is a real intelligence and whether it has incremental validity over IQ and the Big Five personality traits.

Happiness-is-not-something-ready-made-It-comes-from-your-own-actions-DEmotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.

Personal competence comprises your self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you individually than on your interactions with other people.

“As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” —Dalai Lama

Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behavior and tendencies.

  • Self-Awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.
  • Self-Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.

Social competence is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills; social competence is your ability to understand other people’s moods, behavior, and motives in order to respond effectively and improve the quality of your relationships.

Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.
Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.

Emotional Intelligence, IQ, and Personality Are Different

Emotional intelligence taps into a fundamental element of human behavior that is distinct from your intellect. There is no known connection between IQ and emotional intelligence; you simply can’t predict emotional intelligence based on how smart someone is. Intelligence is your ability to learn, and it’s the same at age 15 as it is at age 50.

Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. Although some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, you can develop high emotional intelligence even if you aren’t born with it.

“In regard to measuring emotional intelligence – I am a great believer that criterion-report (that is, ability testing) is the only adequate method to employ. Intelligence is an ability, and is directly measured only by having people answer questions and evaluating the correctness of those answers.” –John D. Mayer

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