Since emotional intelligence (EI) came into prominence as a concept – starting with the seminal article by Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer in 1990, and then taken to a heightened level with my 1995 book by that name, there have been ample criticisms of both the theory and the claims made for it.
In the early years, many of those critiques were justified, particularly those complaining that the statements made for the benefits of EI were not founded on research that was specifically designed to test the effects of EI. That situation was inevitable – EI was too new as a concept for researchers to have had the time to design, execute, analyze, and publish studies showing the impact of EI in, e.g., education or management.
Instead those of us who wrote about the concept had to draw on data that established the impact of one or another aspect of EI, like emotional self-regulation or empathy. But in recent years the data landscape has shifted, with dozens, if not hundreds, of studies on EI finished or in the research pipeline using measures that were designed for that purpose.
Now, drawing on this emerging body of evidence, the case for EI is being made on more solid grounds. A case in point: an article by Cary Cherniss and Melissa Extein of the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University; by Roger Weissberg in the department of psychology at the University of Ilinois at Chicago, and myself. It’s called “Emotional Intelligence: What Does the Research Really Indicate,” and is published in the journal Educational Psychologist (41, 4, 2006, 239-245).
We wrote the article in response to one by an educational psychologist, Linda Waterhouse, who argued:
- that EI cannot be a valid concept because there are many different constructs of EI;
- that EI is no different from personality or IQ;
- that the claim it determines real-world success has not been validated;
- that brain research does not support the construct.
We make point-by-point refutations of each of these claims:
- There are many competing constructs of IQ, and always have been. This simply indicates the concept is robust.
- The preponderance of published studies indicates that EI represents abilities that are distinct from the “Big Five” personality traits.
- Mounting evidence in a range of work settings shot a strong link between EI and performance outcomes.
- The neural substrates of EI dimensions set them apart from those for IQ.
In refuting each of these points one by one, we reviewed recent data that shows much more support for EI theory than she seems to have known about. That trend toward an increasing level of supportive evidence should continue as data accumulates. Over the next few months I’ll be highlighting several of these new key studies. Stay tuned.