The term emotional intelligence (EI), first introduced in the 1990s by Peter Salovey of Yale University and John (Jack) Mayer of the University of New Hampshire, refers to how thinking about emotion and integrating emotion into cognitive processes both facilitate and enhance reasoning. Similar to conceptualizations of intelligence, EI involves the capacity to engage in abstract reasoning, but about emotions in particular. According to the Salovey and Mayer model, there are individual differences in EI, such that individuals who are more skilled at perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions are more successful at accomplishing many learning and social tasks than those who are less skilled.
In the 1980s, the concept of intelligence was broadening to include an array of mental abilities. Most notably, Howard Gardner, who was primarily interested in helping educators to appreciate students with diverse learning styles and potentials, advised practitioners and scientists to place a greater emphasis on the search for multiple intelligences such as interpersonal intelligence. At the same time, psychologists and cognitive scientists began revisiting the Stoic idea that emotions made humans irrational and self-absorbing; specifically, they considered the alternative viewpoint that emotions could enhance cognitive tasks and social interactions.
Influenced by and active participants in these movements, psychologists Salovey and Mayer began integrating the scientific evidence showing that emotions facilitate reasoning into their theory of EI. Intelligence and emotion, prior to their theorizing, generally identified divergent areas of research.
To understand the relevance of EI, it is important to grasp the critical role emotions play in social interactions and human behavior. Research conducted by Charles Darwin in the late 1800s, Silvan Tomkins in the 1960s, Paul Ekman from the 1970s into the early 2000s, and many others show that the experience and expression of emotion communicates important information about one's relationships. For example, anger signifies that someone or something is blocking one's goal, and fear signifies that someone or something in the environment poses a threat. There is scientific evidence that these emotion signals are universal, that is, broadly understood by cultures around the world. Emotions also appear to be essential to thinking and decision making. Work by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio demonstrates that the ability to integrate emotional information with rational decision-making and other cognitive processes is essential for people to manage their daily lives. Individuals unable to attend to, process, or experience emotion due to damage to specific brain areas (i.e., prefrontal lobe area) make decisions that put themselves at risk.
The Ability Model of EI proposed by Salovey and Mayer includes four relatively distinct emotion-related abilities:
perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotion. Their model is depicted in Figure 1.
Perceiving Emotion. Perceiving emotion involves identifying and differentiating emotions in one's physical states (including bodily expressions), feelings, and thoughts, and in the behavioral expressions of others (such as facial expressions, body movements, voice), as well as in the cues expressed in art, music, and other objects. Persons skilled in perceiving emotion are adept at differentiating between the range of emotion expressions (frustration, anger, and rage) in themselves and in others.
Using Emotion. Using emotion to facilitate thought refers to the use of emotion both to focus attention and to think more rationally, logically, and creatively. For example, positive emotions such as joy and amusement are more useful in stimulating creative thought while slightly negative moods such as sadness are more conducive to engaging in deductive reasoning tasks. Persons skilled at using emotions are better able to generate specific emotional states to carry out a task effectively.
Understanding Emotion. Understanding emotion is the ability to label emotions accurately with language and to know the causes and consequences of emotions, including how emotions combine, progress, and shift from one to the other (e.g., in some situations, fear and anger combine to create jealousy). Persons skilled in this area have a rich feelings vocabulary and are knowledgeable about what causes various emotions and what behaviors or thoughts may result from their occurrence.
Managing Emotion. Managing emotion is the ability to regulate moods and emotions and involves attending and staying open to pleasant and unpleasant feelings as well as engaging in or detaching from an emotion depending on its perceived utility in a particular situation. To manage emotions effectively, persons must garner the other skill areas of EI: They must be able to accurately monitor, discriminate, and label their own and others' feelings, believe that they can improve or modify these feelings, assess the effectiveness of these strategies, and employ strategies that will alter these feelings. By effectively managing emotions, persons can accomplish situational goals, express socially appropriate emotions, and behave in socially acceptable ways.
EI theory hypothesizes that these four abilities have developmental trajectories. There are various skills within each domain that evolve from more basic to more advanced. For example, in the domain of perceiving emotion, basic skills involve accurately recognizing an emotional expression in others and more advance skills entail expressing emotions in adaptive ways and discriminating between honest and false emotional expressions in others. EI theory also specifies that the four abilities are hierarchical in structure such that perceiving emotion is at the foundation, followed by using emotion and understanding emotion, with managing emotion at the top of the hierarchy.
The Ability Model of EI is measured by the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and the MSCEIT-Youth Version for children. These tests require respondents to perform emotion-related tasks in order to measure their abilities within and across each of the four areas. For example, to assess perception of emotion, respondents examine a photograph of a person's face and indicate the extent to which each of four emotions is present in the expression. To assess managing emotion, respondents rate the effectiveness of different strategies to reduce a particular emotion in order to achieve a specified goal. The correctness of responses is compared to those provided by normative sample and a sample of emotion experts.
In 1995 the concept of emotional intelligence was made wildly popular by the publication of Daniel Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ. In the ensuing years, myriad models of EI were created. The ability model of EI proposed originally by Salovey and Mayer was published prior to Goleman's book and stands in contrast to other models which incorporate a wide variety of personality traits and other characteristics such as optimism, happiness, and self-awareness. Proponents of these so-called mixed or trait models of EI (i.e., models that mix abilities with personality and other characteristics) typically use self-report scales instead of performance-based assessments to measure EI (i.e., respondents indicate the extent to which they believe they are able to regulate their emotions as opposed to identifying effective strategies to solve emotion-laden problems). Self-report EI scales in general overlap considerably with personality assessments (i.e., they do not measure a construct significantly distinct from existing personality scales). Responses to self-report EI scales typically do not correspond with performance on the MSCEIT, and MSCEIT scores generally are more predictive of important outcomes than self-report EI scales.
The abilities and knowledge areas captured by the EI ability framework contribute to students' academic achievement, ability to maintain quality social relationships, psychological and physical well-being, and later life success. A meta-analysis of more than 250 studies conducted by Roger Weissberg and Joseph Durlak at the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) reveals that the average student enrolled in school-based programs that promote emotion and social skills performs significantly better on achievement tests and has better grades than non-participants. Emotionally skilled students, for example, are better able to identify the causes of their anxiety and may anticipate that an upcoming test is causing them to feel distress. To manage the distress, these students are more likely to engage in proactive behaviors such as asking teachers for help in studying and ensuring they have sufficient time and resources to prepare for the exam.
There is ample scientific evidence that the skills of EI are related to social competence (see work by Nancy Eisenberg and by Susanne Denham for examples. Students who recognize emotions in others and understand, label, express, and regulate their own emotions effectively have good social skills, strong friendships, and high opinions from peers. These positive social outcomes enhance academic achievement. For example, compared to others, students with strong friendships feel more comfortable in the school environment, receive better academic support from teachers, get more social support from peers, and develop healthier attachments to school.
The skills of EI also are related to psychological well-being and to anxiety and depression (in the expected directions). Students with lower EI, especially boys, are more likely to engage in behaviors that put their health and well-being at risk, including drinking, smoking, using drugs, and engaging in violent behaviors. The incidence of anxiety and depression and of these behaviors interferes with learning.
In their research Brackett and Rivers found relationships between EI with teacher ratings of students' leadership skills, study skills, and their ability to adapt to changes. They also found that students with greater EI were less likely to experience (according to teacher evaluations) problems that include aggression, anxiety, conduct problems, hyperactivity, and learning difficulties.
Schools and classrooms provide an ideal place for teaching emotion skills and knowledge. For many children, school is the first opportunity for continued and stable social interactions, and it is difficult for many children to develop their emotion skills solely within the home when, more and more, both parents are working fulltime and often have multiple jobs. CASEL researchers contend that “Schools and classrooms in which adults are nurturing, supportive, and caring furnish the best contextual opportunities for social emotional learning programs to be introduced, sustained and effectively provided” (Elias et al., 1997, p. 75).
With their collaborators, Brackett and Rivers have developed a series of programs to teach students how to recognize, understand, and label accurately both their own and others' emotions, appropriately express their thoughts and feelings, and regulate their emotions effectively, as well as to appreciate the significance of these skills in the academic, social, and personal lives. These programs, titled “Emotional Literacy in the Classroom” (ELC) are grounded in theory and scientific evidence, are field-tested, and are integrated easily into existing school curricula. These programs leverage reading, language arts, and social studies instruction to teach emotion knowledge using an innovative multi-faceted approach. The programs complement the regular school-day curriculum and adhere to both state and national standards. The ELC programs, which have been adopted by and tested in school districts across the United States and abroad, address the particular social and emotional needs of students and help create a caring and challenging classroom environment that fosters effective and enduring academic learning. Accompanying profession development and training programs for teachers and administrators provides educators with the skills and support they need to effectively teach emotion knowledge and skills to students.
See also:Intelligence: An Overview
Brackett, M. A., Kremenitzer, J. P., Maurer, M., Carpenter, M. D., Rivers, S. E., & Katulak, N. A., (Eds.). (2007). Emotional literacy in the classroom: Upper elementary. Port Chester, NY: National Professional Resources.
Denham, S. A. (1998). Emotional development in young children. New York: Guilford Press.
Eisbenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Murphy, B., et al. (1995). The role of emotionality and regulation in children's social functioning: A longitudinal study. Child Development, 66, 1360–1384.
Elias, M. J. Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., et al. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Matthews, G., Zeidner, M., & Roberts, R. D., (Eds.) (2007). The science of emotional intelligence: Knowns and unknowns. New York: Oxford University Press.
Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. J. Sluyter, (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Educational implications. New York: Basic Books.
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality 9, 185-211.
Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Wang, M. C., & Walberg, H. J. (Eds.). (2004). Building academic success on social and emotional learning: What does the research say? New York: Teachers College Press.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Retrieved April 21, 2008, from www.casel.org. Report by Weissberg, R. & Durlak retrieved April 21, 2008, from http://casel.org/downloads/metaanalysissum.pdf.
Emotionally Intelligent Schools (EI-Schools). Retrieved April 21, 2008, from www.ei-schools.com.
Health, Emotion, Behavior Laboratory (HEB Lab). Retrieved April 21, 2008, from http://research.yale.edu/heblab/.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
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