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Measurement, Multiple Intelligences, Myths, Mysteries, And Realities, Triarchic Theory Of IntelligenceEMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Peter Salovey
Paulo N. Lopes

David Lubinski
April Bleske-Rechek

Jie-Qi Chen

James W. Pellegrino

Robert J. Sternberg


The term emotional intelligence was introduced in a 1990 article by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. They described emotional intelligence as a set of skills that involve 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 action. Salovey and Mayer introduced the term as a challenge to intelligence theorists to contemplate an expanded role for the emotional system in conceptual schemes of human abilities, and to investigators of emotion who had historically considered the arousal of affect as disorganizing of cognitive activity. In the spirit of Charles Darwin, who, in his 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, viewed the emotional system as necessary for survival and as providing an important signaling system within and across species, Salovey and Mayer emphasized the functionality of feelings and described a set of competencies that might underlie the adaptive use of affectively charged information.

Associated Concepts and Formal Definition

The idea of an emotional intelligence was anticipated, at least implicitly, by various theorists who argued that traditional notions of analytic intelligence are too narrow. Emotional intelligence adds an affective dimension to Robert Sternberg's 1985 work on practical intelligence, is consistent with theorizing by Nancy Cantor and John Kihlstrom (1987) about social intelligence, and is directly related to research on children's emotional competencies by Carolyn Saarni (1999) and others. Emotional intelligence is most similar to one of the multiple intelligences characterized by Howard Gardner in Frames of Mind (1983). Gardner delineated intrapersonal intelligence as awareness of one's feelings and the capacity to effect discriminations among these feelings, label them, enmesh them in symbolic codes, and draw upon them as a means of understanding and guiding one's behavior.

Mayer and Salovey described emotional intelligence more specifically in 1997 by outlining the competencies it encompasses. They organized these competencies along four branches: (1) the ability to perceive, appraise, and express emotion accurately;(2) the ability to access and generate feelings when they facilitate cognition; (3) the ability to understand affect-laden information and make use of emotional knowledge; and (4) the ability to regulate emotions to promote growth and well-being.

Individuals can be more or less skilled at attending to, appraising, and expressing their own emotional states. These emotional states can be harnessed adaptively and directed toward a range of cognitive tasks, including problem solving, creativity, and decision-making. Emotional intelligence also includes essential knowledge about the emotional system. The most fundamental competencies at this level concern the ability to label emotions with words and to recognize the relationships among exemplars of the affective lexicon. Finally, emotional intelligence includes the ability to regulate feelings in oneself and in other people. Individuals who are unable to manage their emotions are more likely to experience negative affect and remain in poor spirits.

Measures and Findings

There are two types of measures of emotional intelligence: self-report questionnaires and ability tests. Self-report measures essentially ask individuals whether or not they have various competencies and experiences consistent with being emotionally intelligent. Ability tests require individuals to demonstrate these competencies, and they rely on tasks and exercises rather than on self-assessment. Self-report and ability measures may yield different findings, because asking people about their intelligence is not the same as having them take an intelligence test.

Self-report measures include relatively short scales, such as Niccola Schutte and colleagues'(1998) scale, intended to assess Salovey and Mayer's original model of emotional intelligence, and the Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS), designed to assess people's beliefs about their propensity to attend with clarity to their own mood states and to engage in mood repair. More comprehensive self-report inventories, such as the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) encompass a larger number of subscales that tap into personality and other traits related to emotional experience and self-reported, noncognitive competencies.

The advantage of self-report measures is that they provide a global self-evaluation of emotional competence. They draw upon a rich base of self-knowledge and reflect people's experiences across different settings and situations. However, these measures have important limitations: they measure perceived, rather than actual, abilities; and they are susceptible to mood and social desirability biases, as well as deliberate or involuntary self-enhancement. Moreover, self-report measures overlap substantially with personality, and it is unclear whether they contribute to the understanding of social and emotional functioning over and above what personality traits might explain.

To overcome such problems, Mayer, David Caruso, and Salovey (1999) developed an ability test of emotional intelligence. Their first test, called the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS), paved the way for a more reliable, better normed, and more professionally produced test, the Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). This test asks people to process emotional information and use it to solve various problems, and to rate the effectiveness of different strategies for dealing with emotionally arousing situations. It consists of eight tasks, including decoding facial expressions and visual displays of emotion, understanding blends of emotions and emotional dynamics, integrating emotional information with other thinking processes, and managing emotions for purposes of self-regulation and social interaction. The test can be scored using either expert or consensus norms, and Mayer and his colleagues demonstrated in 2001 that these scoring methods yield similar results.

Ability tests of emotional intelligence avoid the self-enhancement and other biases that plague self-report measures, and they are very different from personality inventories. These are substantial advantages. However, these tests also have limitations. To assess emotional regulation, the MSCEIT evaluates people's knowledge of appropriate strategies for handling various situations, rather than their actual skill in implementing these strategies. It is not known to what extent the abilities assessed by ability tests generalize across situations and social or cultural contexts. While they are intended to assess skills, relying on consensus scoring can make it difficult to distinguish enacted skills from adjustment or conformity, especially because emotionally intelligent behavior necessarily reflects attunement to social norms and expectations.

Evidence suggests that emotional intelligence, assessed through ability tests, represents a coherent and interrelated set of abilities, distinct from (but meaningfully related to) traditional measures of intelligence, and developing with age. Initial studies also suggest that ability measures of emotional intelligence are associated with a range of positive outcomes, including lower peer ratings of aggressiveness and higher teacher ratings of prosocial behavior among school children; less tobacco and alcohol consumption among teenagers; higher self-reported empathy, life satisfaction, and relationship quality among college students; and higher manager ratings of effectiveness among leaders of an insurance company's customer claims teams. Emotional intelligence also seems to explain the perceived quality of social relationships over and above what personality traits and traditional measures of intelligence might explain.

Stronger evidence that emotional skills are associated with social adaptation comes from studies with children, using very different measures. In a large number of studies, children's abilities to read emotions in faces, understand emotional vocabulary, and regulate their emotions have been associated with their social competence and adaptation, as rated by peers, parents, and teachers.

Emotional Intelligence in the Schools

During the 1980s and 1990s, the idea that the social problems of young people (e.g., dropping out of school, illicit drug use, teenage pregnancy) can be addressed through school-based prevention programs became popular among educational reformers. Earlier programs focused primarily on social problem-solving skills or conflict resolution strategies. After the 1995 publication of a best-selling trade book on the topic of emotional intelligence by science writer Daniel Goleman, the concept of emotional intelligence gained enormous popular appeal, and school-based programs of social and emotional learning multiplied. These programs usually deal with emotions explicitly, and they can help children to build a feelings vocabulary, recognize facial expressions of emotion, control impulsive behavior, and regulate feelings such as sorrow and anger.

There is evidence that programs of social and emotional learning that are well designed and well implemented can promote children's social and emotional adjustment. Programs such as Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS), the Seattle Social Development Project, and Resolving Conflict Creatively have been evaluated through studies that track children's development over time. Benefits from these programs may include gains in children's social and emotional bonding to school, lowered dropout rates, a reduced incidence of aggressive or risky behaviors, and improvements in cognitive and emotional functioning. However, social and emotional learning programs usually address a very broad range of competencies, and it is not known to what extent the benefits observed in these studies can be attributed specifically to the training of emotional skills. Moreover, the success of these interventions depends on many factors, including the quality and motivation of the teachers, as well as their capacity to promote informal learning and generalization of skills.

Researchers associated with the Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and others have drafted useful guidelines to help educators choose, adapt, and implement effective social and emotional learning programs. Important questions remain to be addressed, however. In dealing with others, people draw upon a very wide range of social and emotional skills, and it may be difficult to address all these competencies through formal or explicit instruction. It is not clear exactly what skills to emphasize, what are the best ways of teaching these skills, and to what extent they generalize across settings and situations.

Emotional skills may contribute to academic achievement in various ways. The ability to perceive and understand emotions may facilitate writing and artistic expression, as well as the interpretation of literature and works of art. Emotional regulation may help children to handle the anxiety of taking tests, or the frustrations associated with any pursuit requiring an investment of time and effort. It may also facilitate control of attention, sustained intellectual engagement, intrinsic motivation, and enjoyment of challenging academic activities.


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