What is emotional intelligence?

The science of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is part nature and part nurture. There is a component that is genetically determined and there is a component that is learned. Mayer & Salovey, with their focus on how the brain processes emotions and emotional information, focus attention to what is probably mostly genetically determined. We all have a certain capacity for emotions and emotional information and it is as a result of our genetic make up. We often refer to this as resulting from “nature.” Then there is the question of how we use the capacity that we possess or how we have learned to apply what we have. We refer to this learned skill as resulting from “nurture.”

Bar-On, on the other hand, had a very general research question in mind, which was, “what made some people ‘successful’ in work and in life independent of their intelligence quotient (IQ) scores?” Therefore, his model of emotional and social functioning (hitherto becoming known as a model of emotional intelligence) is a model of mostly learned skills. Therefore, if we want a model of skills, all of which can be improved, then the Bar-On model is the most helpful. The skills associated with the Bar-On model, which I like to refer to as ‘EQ competencies’, answer the question of how we use our capacity for emotional intelligence that we possess as a result of our genetic make up.

Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy. Aristotle (approx. 350BCE)

Models of emotional intelligence

So, which is the best model of emotional intelligence? The one that is most useful to you.

Strictly speaking, Mayer & Salovey are most recognized for having described the model of emotional intelligence, while Bar-On, through his empirical studies, created a model of emotional intelligence skills as measured by one’s Emotional Quotient (EQ).

It is this set of 15 skills which, if you choose to improve them, have the power to change your life for the better.

Find out more about EQ assessment

A little history

In approximately 350BCE Aristotle referred to being intelligent about emotions. This is the best definition I know for emotional intelligence: being intelligent about emotions. Various researchers over the course of the twentieth century have worked on the concept using various terminology, but it was B. Leuner who, in 1966, used the term emotional intelligence in an academic article for the first time. Other researchers who have contributed greatly to the development of this concept are Wayne Pane (1985), Reuven Bar-On (1985), Jack Mayer & Peter Salovey (1990), and Daniel Goleman (1995). Goleman wrote the book, “Emotional Intelligence”: why it can matter more than IQ” (1995) which popularized the concept worldwide. The empirical study of the concept was undertaken by Bar-On beginning in 1981 with his doctoral studies culminating in the creation of the first scientifically validated assessment tool for EQ – the Emotional Quotient Inventory, first published in 1997 (MHS, 1997). A very influential model is Mayer & Salovey’s theoretical conceptualization regarding the role of the brain in processing emotions and emotional information (Mayer and Salovey,1990).