Emotional Intelligence: Thinking with a Heart

The term emotional intelligence (EI) was coined by Goleman (1995) to refer to a person’s ability to understand and accurately interpret his or her own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

The concept is intended to complement the traditional view of intelligence Opens in new window by aiming at the emotional, personal and social aspects of intelligent behavior (Mayer and Salovey 1993). This is known as the mixed model of EI (Bar-On 1997; Goleman 1995) because EI is seen as a mixture of abilities, personality dispositions and traits.

Despite lack of research support for EI being a separate intelligence (but rather an aspect of personality) (Davies, Stankov and Roberts 1998), the idea of using EI measurements to distinguish between people who understand their emotions and those who are emotionally blind has raised a lot of interest.

Mayer and Salovey (1997) have developed the concept of EI further (the ability model), approaching it as thinking with a heart, distinguishing EI from distinct personality characteristics while recognizing that they are important elements of EI:

Emotional intelligence refers to an ability to recognize the meanings of emotions and their relationships, and to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them. Emotional intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them (Mayer, Caruso, and Salovey 1999, p.267).

Criticism of EI concerns EI measurements instruments, that, according to Davies et al., generally ‘exhibited low reliability and indicated a lack of convergent validity’ (1998, p.989).

The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is based on self-report. It is an ability-based test designed to measure the four branches of the EI model of Mayer and Salovey:

  1. perceiving emotions: the ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others as well as in objects, art, stories, music and other stimuli
  2. facilitating thought: the ability to generate, use and feel emotion as necessary to communicate feelings or employ them in other cognitive processes
  3. understanding emotions: the ability to understand emotional information, to understand how emotions combine and progress through relationship transitions and to appreciate such emotional meanings
  4. managing emotions: the ability to be open to feelings, and to modulate them in oneself and others so as to promote personal understanding and growth.

These tests have been designed to test ‘normal’ ways to express and understand emotions; they would not work with any autistic individuals — who are often described as ‘heart savants’ despite the assumption that they lack emotional maturity and empathy.

    The data for this work have resourced from the manual:
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