Emotional Intelligence: Recognizing and Reasoning About Emotions

Reviewed Feb 21, 2017

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Summary

Emotional intelligence is the ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance reasoning.

Do others say that you have great insight into your own and others’ feelings? Or do you find yourself mystified by others’ actions and surprised to learn what they are feeling?

The difference may be one of intelligence—specifically, emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a capacity, as is general intelligence, which we all have, whether high or low.

The popular view of emotional intelligence mixes personality traits and EI

University of New Hampshire psychology professor John D. Mayer and colleagues first published research findings on emotional intelligence more than two decades ago. Citing their research, others wrote books and journal articles on the topic and created tests to measure EI.

Dr. Mayer explains that the popular use of the term differs from the scientific view of EI. The popular view of EI is now referred to by scientists as “mixed model” because it mixes together personality traits and EI. Some of the traits mixed in are:

  • Motivation and persistence
  • High self-esteem
  • Happiness and optimism

EI is not a measure of motivation or happiness. Mayer explains, “There are plenty of unhappy people with a high emotional intelligence.” He adds that personality traits are important, but they already have their own names. Emotional intelligence is something new.

The scientific view of emotional intelligence

Mayer and his research partners define emotional intelligence as “the ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance reasoning.” To help explain this, they identify four abilities of EI:

  1. Knowing what you are feeling or using cues such as facial expressions or voice tone to recognize what someone else may be feeling.
  2. Knowing that feelings can create mental energy that can be put to good use and promote certain kinds of thinking.
  3. Knowing what your feelings are “telling you”—what emotions mean—and what actions might typically go with that message.
  4. Listening to the message of emotions (yours and others’) to help manage them.

To walk through a scenario with the four abilities above, a person might:

  • Notice cues in a loved one that she may be feeling sad.
  • Feel sympathy for her, and use that sympathy to try to understand her.
  • Know that her sorrow could make her want either to be alone or to be comforted by someone.
  • Approach her with words such as, “Do you want to talk?” or actions such as a hug or an offer to watch her kids so she can go for a walk.

Why emotional intelligence matters

Knowing that people differ in their ability to recognize and reason about emotions can help in that:

  • You may have a high EI and are able to recognize when others need help reading emotions.
  • You may have a low EI and find that others can help you understand what’s going on in and around you.

Just as you might look to a mentor or teacher with a high IQ to help you understand some puzzling information, so might you be helped by someone with a high EI when the information involves emotions.

Measuring and improving emotional intelligence

Many businesses use the EI tests derived from the popular, mixed-model view of emotional intelligence. These tests may benefit companies for workshops on teamwork, workplace attitudes, etc., but they do not measure EI, according to Mayer.

He and his colleagues devised a test to measure a person’s EI as defined scientifically. The test is called the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). It is based on a series of emotion-based problem-solving items.

What if you don’t care for your MSCEIT score? Can it be raised? Mayer’s answer: “We don’t know, but that may be the wrong question. Usually, people want to know if they can improve their emotional knowledge, and that is likely to be very possible, regardless of our EI score.”

Resource

Emotional Intelligence Information (edited by John D. Mayer)
www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence

Six Seconds
www.6seconds.org/

The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (CREIO)
www.eiconsortium.org/ 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: John D. Mayer, psychology professor, University of New Hampshire; Mayer, J.D., Peter Salovey and David Caruso (2008) "Emotional Intelligence: New Ability or Eclectic Traits?" American Psychologist, (63):503-517; Mayer, J.D. (1999) "Emotional Intelligence: Popular or Scientific Psychology?" APA Monitor, (30):50.

Summary

Emotional intelligence is the ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance reasoning.

Do others say that you have great insight into your own and others’ feelings? Or do you find yourself mystified by others’ actions and surprised to learn what they are feeling?

The difference may be one of intelligence—specifically, emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a capacity, as is general intelligence, which we all have, whether high or low.

The popular view of emotional intelligence mixes personality traits and EI

University of New Hampshire psychology professor John D. Mayer and colleagues first published research findings on emotional intelligence more than two decades ago. Citing their research, others wrote books and journal articles on the topic and created tests to measure EI.

Dr. Mayer explains that the popular use of the term differs from the scientific view of EI. The popular view of EI is now referred to by scientists as “mixed model” because it mixes together personality traits and EI. Some of the traits mixed in are:

  • Motivation and persistence
  • High self-esteem
  • Happiness and optimism

EI is not a measure of motivation or happiness. Mayer explains, “There are plenty of unhappy people with a high emotional intelligence.” He adds that personality traits are important, but they already have their own names. Emotional intelligence is something new.

The scientific view of emotional intelligence

Mayer and his research partners define emotional intelligence as “the ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance reasoning.” To help explain this, they identify four abilities of EI:

  1. Knowing what you are feeling or using cues such as facial expressions or voice tone to recognize what someone else may be feeling.
  2. Knowing that feelings can create mental energy that can be put to good use and promote certain kinds of thinking.
  3. Knowing what your feelings are “telling you”—what emotions mean—and what actions might typically go with that message.
  4. Listening to the message of emotions (yours and others’) to help manage them.

To walk through a scenario with the four abilities above, a person might:

  • Notice cues in a loved one that she may be feeling sad.
  • Feel sympathy for her, and use that sympathy to try to understand her.
  • Know that her sorrow could make her want either to be alone or to be comforted by someone.
  • Approach her with words such as, “Do you want to talk?” or actions such as a hug or an offer to watch her kids so she can go for a walk.

Why emotional intelligence matters

Knowing that people differ in their ability to recognize and reason about emotions can help in that:

  • You may have a high EI and are able to recognize when others need help reading emotions.
  • You may have a low EI and find that others can help you understand what’s going on in and around you.

Just as you might look to a mentor or teacher with a high IQ to help you understand some puzzling information, so might you be helped by someone with a high EI when the information involves emotions.

Measuring and improving emotional intelligence

Many businesses use the EI tests derived from the popular, mixed-model view of emotional intelligence. These tests may benefit companies for workshops on teamwork, workplace attitudes, etc., but they do not measure EI, according to Mayer.

He and his colleagues devised a test to measure a person’s EI as defined scientifically. The test is called the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). It is based on a series of emotion-based problem-solving items.

What if you don’t care for your MSCEIT score? Can it be raised? Mayer’s answer: “We don’t know, but that may be the wrong question. Usually, people want to know if they can improve their emotional knowledge, and that is likely to be very possible, regardless of our EI score.”

Resource

Emotional Intelligence Information (edited by John D. Mayer)
www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence

Six Seconds
www.6seconds.org/

The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (CREIO)
www.eiconsortium.org/ 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: John D. Mayer, psychology professor, University of New Hampshire; Mayer, J.D., Peter Salovey and David Caruso (2008) "Emotional Intelligence: New Ability or Eclectic Traits?" American Psychologist, (63):503-517; Mayer, J.D. (1999) "Emotional Intelligence: Popular or Scientific Psychology?" APA Monitor, (30):50.

Summary

Emotional intelligence is the ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance reasoning.

Do others say that you have great insight into your own and others’ feelings? Or do you find yourself mystified by others’ actions and surprised to learn what they are feeling?

The difference may be one of intelligence—specifically, emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a capacity, as is general intelligence, which we all have, whether high or low.

The popular view of emotional intelligence mixes personality traits and EI

University of New Hampshire psychology professor John D. Mayer and colleagues first published research findings on emotional intelligence more than two decades ago. Citing their research, others wrote books and journal articles on the topic and created tests to measure EI.

Dr. Mayer explains that the popular use of the term differs from the scientific view of EI. The popular view of EI is now referred to by scientists as “mixed model” because it mixes together personality traits and EI. Some of the traits mixed in are:

  • Motivation and persistence
  • High self-esteem
  • Happiness and optimism

EI is not a measure of motivation or happiness. Mayer explains, “There are plenty of unhappy people with a high emotional intelligence.” He adds that personality traits are important, but they already have their own names. Emotional intelligence is something new.

The scientific view of emotional intelligence

Mayer and his research partners define emotional intelligence as “the ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance reasoning.” To help explain this, they identify four abilities of EI:

  1. Knowing what you are feeling or using cues such as facial expressions or voice tone to recognize what someone else may be feeling.
  2. Knowing that feelings can create mental energy that can be put to good use and promote certain kinds of thinking.
  3. Knowing what your feelings are “telling you”—what emotions mean—and what actions might typically go with that message.
  4. Listening to the message of emotions (yours and others’) to help manage them.

To walk through a scenario with the four abilities above, a person might:

  • Notice cues in a loved one that she may be feeling sad.
  • Feel sympathy for her, and use that sympathy to try to understand her.
  • Know that her sorrow could make her want either to be alone or to be comforted by someone.
  • Approach her with words such as, “Do you want to talk?” or actions such as a hug or an offer to watch her kids so she can go for a walk.

Why emotional intelligence matters

Knowing that people differ in their ability to recognize and reason about emotions can help in that:

  • You may have a high EI and are able to recognize when others need help reading emotions.
  • You may have a low EI and find that others can help you understand what’s going on in and around you.

Just as you might look to a mentor or teacher with a high IQ to help you understand some puzzling information, so might you be helped by someone with a high EI when the information involves emotions.

Measuring and improving emotional intelligence

Many businesses use the EI tests derived from the popular, mixed-model view of emotional intelligence. These tests may benefit companies for workshops on teamwork, workplace attitudes, etc., but they do not measure EI, according to Mayer.

He and his colleagues devised a test to measure a person’s EI as defined scientifically. The test is called the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). It is based on a series of emotion-based problem-solving items.

What if you don’t care for your MSCEIT score? Can it be raised? Mayer’s answer: “We don’t know, but that may be the wrong question. Usually, people want to know if they can improve their emotional knowledge, and that is likely to be very possible, regardless of our EI score.”

Resource

Emotional Intelligence Information (edited by John D. Mayer)
www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence

Six Seconds
www.6seconds.org/

The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (CREIO)
www.eiconsortium.org/ 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: John D. Mayer, psychology professor, University of New Hampshire; Mayer, J.D., Peter Salovey and David Caruso (2008) "Emotional Intelligence: New Ability or Eclectic Traits?" American Psychologist, (63):503-517; Mayer, J.D. (1999) "Emotional Intelligence: Popular or Scientific Psychology?" APA Monitor, (30):50.

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