Emotional intelligence

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Psychologists have identified a variety of intelligences over the years (Gardner, 1983).  Most of these can be grouped into one of three clusters, “abstract”, “concrete” or “social” intelligence.  Abstract intelligence is an ability to understand and manipulate verbal and mathematical symbols, whereas concrete intelligence is an ability to understand and manipulate objects.  Social intelligence, which was first identified by Thorndike in 1920, is an ability to understand and relate to people (Ruisel, 1992).  Emotional Intelligence has its roots in social intelligence (Young, 1996).

Academic’ Model of Emotional Intelligence

A quick recap through history suggests that the term was first used by a literary criticism book in 1961, which proposed that some of Jane Austin’s characters in her novel ’Pride and Prejudice’ displayed an “…intelligence, which informs the emotions…” A couple of decades later, in 1985, an unpublished dissertation referred to the term Emotional Intelligence (Hein, 2003).  This brings us to Peter Salovey and John (Jack) Mayer, who were attempting to develop a scientific way of measuring different individuals’ emotional abilities, such as identifying their own feelings, identifying those of others and solving emotional problems.  Thus in 1990, Emotional Intelligence was presented as “a type of social intelligence, which involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among these emotions and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). 

As yet, a theoretical concept is still lacking (Young, 1996).  However, by conceptually integrating the available research, Emotional Intelligence’s role in Psychology can be more easily seen.  Salovey and Mayer argued that Emotional Intelligence subsumes both inter- and intrapersonal intelligences, as proposed by Howard Gardner (1983).  Their Proposal indicates that Emotional Intelligence has five principal features: 

1.      being aware of one’s own emotions

2.      being able to manage one’s own emotions

3.      being sensitive to the emotions of others

4.      being able to respond to and negotiate with other people emotionally

5.      being able to use one’s own emotions to motivate oneself

The Conceptualisation of Emotional Intelligence:  

emotional intelligence diagram
(Salovey & Mayer, 1990)

Mental processes include appraisal and expression of emotion in the Self, which suggests that people skilled in this process can recognize and so respond more appropriately, to their own emotions.  Such emotionally intelligent individuals can better express these emotions to others.  They tend also to be more talented at recognising others’ emotional reactions, thus producing empathic responses to them. 

Individuals skilled at accurately gauging affective responses in others are usually talented at choosing socially adaptive behaviours, in their response.  Thus, others should see them as warm and genuine.  In contrast, individuals who lack such skills can often appear impolite or diffident.

 Emotionally intelligent individuals are said to be particularly adept at regulating emotion. This process is often used as a means to meeting particular goals, as it can lead to more adaptive mood states.  In other words, such emotionally intelligent individuals may improve their moods and the moods of others’.  As a result, they can even go so far as motivating others to achieving worthwhile objectives.  Sometimes however, these skills are sometimes channelled antisocially and used to manipulate others. 

 Finally, emotional intelligence can be utilized in problem solving.  Salovey and Mayer (1990) proposed that individuals tend to differ greatly in their ability to organise their emotions, in order to solve problems.   Both emotions and moods have a subtle influence over the strategies involved in problem solving. They came to the conclusion that positive mood enables a greater degree of flexibility in future planning, which enables better preparation for making the most of future opportunities.  Similarly, they claimed that a good mood is beneficial in creative thinking, as it increases an individual’s ability for developing category organising principles.  Unfortunately, the reverse of these abilities have a tendency to hold true for individuals in negative moods. 

Moods may also be used to motivate one in the face of a challenge.  Some people can positively channel their anxiety experienced in situations, such as exams, while others may imagine the possibility of failure, to better motivate themselves.  In general, individuals with an optimistic attitude towards life construct interpersonal experiences, which result in improved outcomes for themselves and those around them.  All in all, it can be said that emotionally intelligent individuals should be at an advantage in adaptively solving problems encountered in life. 


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