Emotional Intelligence And Its Impact On Humans Life

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Intelligence research has been dominated by conceptualisation and IQ (Intelligence Quotient) for decades. However, a popular argument against IQ is that it measures a narrow, more mathematical aspect of intelligence (Mackintosh & Mackintosh, 2011). This was noted by Gardner and Hatch (1989) who explored the concept of multiple intelligences and discovered that IQ was just one distinct construct for logical intelligence. It has also been said that IQ tests fail to account for the variety of success in different contexts. Richardson (2002) reviewed IQ literature and suggested that IQ is not a measure of the ability for complex cognition, but rather a measure of social class background. These ideas contributed to the awareness of other intelligences, including emotional intelligence (EI).

Although it’s origins are in early social intelligence research (Thorndike, 1920), the term ‘emotional intelligence’ was first devised by Salovey & Mayer (1990) who defined it as ‘a set of skills contributing to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion, utilisation of emotion and regulation of emotion’. Later on, Salovey & Mayer (1997) created a four-branch model of EI to further explain the concept and outline four abilities that define EI. These four abilities are; (i) perceiving emotions, (ii) facilitating thought, (iii) understanding emotions and (iv) managing emotions. These are arranged hierarchically from basic to more advanced processes. For example, ‘managing emotions’ (the fourth branch) involves more sophisticated abilities such as monitoring and reflecting on one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others, including being able to detach from an emotion. More recently, several studies have operationalised emotional intelligence as a trait (Neubauer and Freudenthaler, 2005), hence the popular term ‘trait emotional intelligence.

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Several measures of aspects of EI have been published. One of the more common measures is the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, also known as MSCEIT (Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, 2002), which requires individuals to solve eight tasks covering each of the four branches mentioned previously. Although claims of its validity do exist by Mayer et al. (2003), there have been criticisms of the MSCEIT that suggest it is limited in what it measures (Brackett, Rivers and Salovey, 2011).

In recent years the importance of EI has come into question (Peter, 2010). For example, if EI is a more important measure of general intelligence than IQ, there would be large implications for academic institutions and workplaces. Therefore, this essay will critically assess whether emotional intelligence is more important than IQ and the popular claim that it is the key to personal and professional success.

Is EI a Better Measure of Intelligence than IQ?

For a long time, studies suggested that EI added nothing new to intelligence research. However, in the early 2000s evidence started weighing in favour of EI being distinct from IQ (Mayer et al., 2003). Rosete and Ciarrochi (2005) found that EI predicted leadership effectiveness and explained variance not accounted for by IQ or personality. Also, a study by Van Rooy, Viswesvaran and Pluta (2005) showed that ability-based measures of EI did not correlate with cognitive ability or personality. Therefore, it is evident that EI is not only distinct from IQ but also existing personality constructs. Also, MSCEIT scores have been shown to correlate with verbal SAT scores (David, 2005). Generally, higher MSCEIT scores show less cognitive effort needed to solve emotional or social issues, as shown in an EEG study by Jausovec, Jausovec and Garlic in 2001.

There is little evidence to suggest that EI is a better measure of intelligence than IQ, rather than EI is perhaps a better measure of solving emotion-related socio-cognitive problems. Ciarrochi, Chan and Caputi (2000) critically evaluated EI and found that EI was not related to IQ but was related to specific personality measures, such as empathy. EI and IQ were both related to people’s ability to manage their moods. This suggests that IQ could still play a role in understanding emotional processes. Bastian, Burns and Nettelbeck (2005) found that the shared variance between EI and life skills decreased after controlling for personality and cognitive influences. Therefore, it is difficult to distinguish whether one construct, e.g. EI, is solely a better general intelligence measure due to its overlap with IQ and personality factors. This is reinforced by a recent meta-analysis by van der Linden et al. (2017) who suggested that the general factor of personality is synonymous to trait EI. Seemingly, more coherent constructs still need to be established to distinguish EI from personality factors and IQ.

Does Emotional Intelligence Contribute to Better Performance in Education?

Research has found plenty of evidence for EI contributing to academic success. In 1991, Hawkins, Von Cleave and Catalano found that incorporation of EI classes in schools resulted in higher scores on SATs. Petrides, Frederickson and Furnham (2004) looked at the role of trait EI in academic performance and in deviant behaviour on school pupils in the UK. They found that the relationship between cognitive ability and academic performance was moderated by EI. Also, it was found that pupils with higher trait EI scores were less likely to be excluded. A similar study also showed that EI mediated the association between verbal IQ and GPA (Hogan, Parker, Wiener, Watters, Wood and Oke, 2010).

On the other hand, some evidence has disputed this claim. A study by Rode et al. (2007) concluded that individuals with EI must also be motivated to put it to use. Bastian, Burn and Nettelback (2005) found small, statistically insignificant correlations between EI and academic achievement. Adding to this, some studies find correlations between EI and academic performance which become insignificant after they control for verbal IQ (Brackett and Mayer, 2003). This suggests EI by itself may not be a predictor of academic success. It is likely that EI plays a role in aspects of school performance, but more research is needed to understand the relationship accurately. Other research shows only some measures of EI predict academic success (Barchard, 2003). In this study, none of the EI measures showed gradual predictive validity for academic achievement over cognitive (IQ) or personality variables.

Does Emotional Intelligence Bring More Success into the Workplace?

EI contributing to better workplace performance has major implications for businesses and organisations, particularly when choosing who to employ (Goleman, 1998). As mentioned previously, Rosete and Ciarrochi (2005) found a significant relationship between EI and leadership effectiveness. However, Waterhouse (2006) reviewed theories of EI and claimed that there has been a lack of consistent, empirical evidence for EI contributing to real-world success. This is understandable considering a lot of research on this abstract concept relies on correlational data, which cannot prove a causal relationship. Waterhouse was critiqued for reviewing a small selection of studies (Cherniss, Extein, Goleman and Weissberg, 2006).

Research continues to claim that cognitive intelligence is the best predictor of job performance (Schmidt, Schaffer and Oh, 2008). Landy (2005) argued against using EI to predict job performance unless it directly contributed to workplace success. However, Cote and Miners (2006) suggested that EI is an important predictor of task performance due to its interactive effect on IQ. They also claimed that individuals who were emotionally intelligent but had lower cognitive intelligence, may have good job performance due to their ability to manage conflict. This suggests that the social nature of some work environments benefits emotionally intelligent people.

Nevertheless, more recent research has provided stronger evidence of the importance of EI in the workplace. A study in 2010, by Shahzad, Sarmad, Abbas and Khan, looked at four aspects of EI on employee performance in the telecom sector of Pakistan. The results show a positive relationship between social awareness and relationship management on employee performance. Although still correlational, this study suggests that particular aspects of EI are what contributes to workplace success in a greatly collectivist culture. In 2017, Miao, Humphrey and Qian found that EI is negatively related to counter-productive work behaviour, whilst also finding that this effect is strongest in health care and service industries. Generally, the evidence weighs in favour of EI predicting workplace success.

Does Emotional Intelligence Predict Personal Success?

Although the majority of EI research focuses on relationships with occupational success, there is still evidence that EI is positively linked to a more successful personal life. Schutte et al. 2001 conducted 7 studies in the U.S. to examine the relationship between EI and interpersonal relations. Each study showed a positive correlation for EI and each interpersonal variable, for example, individuals with higher EI scores showed more cooperative responses towards partners. However, this report did not control for extraneous variables that may have accounted for the associations, such as IQ. Having said this, other studies that did control for personality traits such as general intelligence also found that those who had higher EI scores were more interpersonally sensitive or socially skilled (Lopes, Brackett, Nezlek, Schutz, Sellin and Salovey, 2004).

There is also a lot of research to suggest EI leads to success in romantic relationships. A meta-analysis of 6 studies found a significant relationship between trait emotional intelligence and romantic relationship satisfaction (Malouff, Schutte and Thorsteinsson, 2014). Again, this relationship could be the result of different variables that were not accounted for. For example, Neyer and Voigt (2004) found that perceived quality of relationship was better predicted by an individual’s personality traits. In a study where EI was assessed as ability, the findings only showed partial support for EI being the main characteristic of successful relationships (Zeidner and Kloda, 2013). Therefore, it is problematic to assume EI can predict successful romantic relationships.

Certain research has acknowledged the value of EI as a potential health predictor. Another meta-analysis by Martins, Rmalho and Morin (2010) found that trait EI was strongly associated with health, and the strongest association being with mental health. Generally, research has found MSCEIT scores to negatively correlate with mental health concerns such as anxiety (O’Connor and Little, 2003). This implies that higher EI is associated with mental well-being. This is also supported by Hertel, Schutz & Lammers (2009) who found patients who suffered from major depression, substance abuse and bipolar disorder had lower MSCEIT scores. This implies that teaching EI skills to vulnerable individuals could be important in preventing mental health disorders from catalysing.

The Future of Emotional Intelligence Research

In conclusion, it is deterministic to suggest that EI is the key to personal and professional success. The current understanding of EI is still somewhat unclear as it is a relatively new concept. A lot of the articles mentioned in this essay are based on self-report methods and result in solely correlational findings. Therefore, more controlled, experimental methods are needed to eliminate self-report biases and to find causal relationships. Future EI research should always try to control for IQ, personality traits and other fundamental variables that could influence EI scores. Furthermore, longitudinal studies seem to provide more detailed data on the importance of emotional intelligence in everyday life, i.e. comparing higher EI scorers to lower EI scorers over a long period of time.

Also, it should be considered that a harmonious contribution of EI, cognitive ability and personality factors may lead to personal and professional success, as opposed to just one construct being the sole predictor. Research tends to ignore that a combination of these factors may be a more effective predictor of everyday successes. Similarly, EI encompasses a wide range of abilities where certain specific abilities, such as empathy, may be better contributors to success in either an individual’s professional or personal life. There is also an evident overlap between certain personality factors and EI abilities, so it is problematic to say either one is solely significantly associated with other variables, such as academic success.

Ultimately, EI is best operationalised as an arrangement of intellectual abilities for emotion-related problem solving. Knowing this, it is hoped EI measures will be refined as theory develops. The MSCEIT is still used widely but is becoming more and more dated. Currently, this research area is thriving and understanding of EI is steadily developing. Therefore, continuing to teach or implement EI skills in schools, businesses or therapy is undoubtedly beneficial for the general population.  


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