So what exactly is emotional intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence (EI), often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), describes the ability to perceive and manage the emotion of oneself, of others, and of groups.
Defining emotional intelligence
The definition of EI is the object of frequent arguments. Up till now, three main models of EI have been developed:
- Ability-Based EI Models
- Mixed Models of EI
- Trait EI Models
We’ve explained all of them below.
The ability-based model
This concept of EI, created by Salovey and Mayer, strives to define EI within the confines of the standard criteria for a new intelligence.
Following their continued research, their initial definition of EI was revised to: “The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth”.
The ability based model views emotions as useful sources of information that help you navigate the social environment and make sense of it. The model explains that individuals vary in their ability to process information of emotional nature and in their ability to relate emotional processing to a wider cognition. This ability is seen to manifest itself in certain adaptive behaviors.
The model proposes that EI includes 4 types of abilities:
- Perceiving Emotions: the ability to detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural artefacts, including the ability to identify one’s own emotions. Perceiving emotions represents a basic aspect of emotional intelligence, as it makes all other processing of emotional information possible.
- Using Emotions: the ability to harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem solving. An emotionally intelligent person can capitalize upon their changing moods to adapt to the task at hand.
- Understanding Emotions: the ability to comprehend the language of emotions and to appreciate complicated relationships among emotions. For example, understanding emotions encompasses the ability to be sensitive to slight variations between emotions and the ability to recognize and describe how emotions evolve over time.
- Managing Emotions: the ability to regulate emotions in both ourselves and in others. Therefore, an emotionally intelligent person can harness emotions, even negative ones, and manage them to achieve their intended goals.
Emotional competencies model
This EI model introduced by Daniel Goleman views EI as a wide array of competencies and skills that drive managerial performance, measured by multi-rater assessment and self-assessment (Bradberry and Greaves, 2005).
In “Working with Emotional Intelligence” (1998), Goleman explored the impact of EI on on-the-job performance, and claimed EI to be the strongest predictor of success in the workplace. A more recent confirmation of these findings on a worldwide sample can be seen in “The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book” by Bradberry and Greaves (2005).
Goleman’s model outlines four main EI components:
- Self-awareness: the ability to read one’s emotions and recognise their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
- Self-management: the ability to control one’s emotions and impulses and adapt to changing circumstances.
- Social awareness: the ability to sense and understand other people’s emotions and react to them while comprehending social networks.
- Relationship management: the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflicts.
Goleman includes a set of emotional competencies within each construct of EI. Emotional competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that must be worked on and developed to achieve outstanding performance. Goleman suggests that individuals are born with a general emotional intelligence that determines their potential for learning emotional competencies.
Bar-On model of emotional-social intelligence
Psychologist Reuven Bar-On (2006) developed one of the first measures of EI that used the term “Emotional Quotient”. He defines emotional intelligence as concerned with effectively understanding oneself and others, relating well to people, and adapting to and coping with the immediate surroundings to be more successful in dealing with environmental demands. Bar-On suggests that EI develops over time and that it can be improved through training, programming, and therapy.
Bar-On’s hypothesis states that individuals with higher-than-average EQ are in general more successful in meeting environmental demands and pressures. He also notes that a deficiency in EI can mean emotional problems and a lack of success.
According to Bar-On, problems in coping with one’s environment are thought to be especially common among those individuals who lack in reality testing, problem solving, stress tolerance, and impulse control. In general, Bar-On considers emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence to contribute equally to a person’s general intelligence, which then offers an indication of one’s potential to succeed in life.
Trait EI model
Petrides proposed a conceptual distinction between the ability-based model and a trait-based model of EI. Trait EI refers to “a constellation of behavioral dispositions and self-perceptions concerning one’s ability to recognise, process, and utilize emotion-laden information”. This definition of EI encompasses behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities and is measured by self-report, as opposed to the ability-based model, which refers to actual abilities as they express themselves in performance-based measures. Trait EI should be investigated within a personality framework.
The trait EI model is general and subsumes Goleman’s and Bar-On’s models discussed above. Petrides is a major critic of the ability-based model and the MSCEIT arguing that they are based on “psychometrically meaningless” scoring procedures.
The conceptualization of EI as a personality trait leads to a construct that lies outside of the taxonomy of human cognitive ability. This is an important distinction in as much as it bears directly on the operationalization of the construct and the theories and hypotheses that are formulated about it.