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Emotional Intelligence: What Does the Research Really Indicate?

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CHERNISS, EXTEIN, GOLEMAN, WEISSBERGEMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCEEmotional Intelligence: What Does theResearch Really Indicate?Cary Cherniss and Melissa ExteinGraduate School of Applied and Professional PsychologyRutgers UniversityDaniel GolemanWilliamsburg, MARoger P. WeissbergDepartment of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoIn her critique of emotional intelligence (EI) theory and research, Waterhouse (2006) makesseveral claims. First, she argues that there are “many conflicting constructs of EI,” implyingthat it cannot be a valid concept given this multiplicity of views. Second, she cites some re-search and opinion suggesting that “EI has not been differentiated from personality plus IQ.”Third, she states that “the claim that EI determines real-world success has not been validated.”Finally, she proposes that research on brain function proves that there cannot be a “unitary EI.”Based on this critique, she argues that EI competencies should not be taught in the schools. Thisarticle addresses each of these criticisms and shows that there now is much more empirical sup-port for EI theory than Waterhouse suggested in her article.Parts of Waterhouse’s (2006) critique of emotional intelli-gence (EI) theory seem valid, whereas other aspects aremisguided. She seems to mix together popular claims, sci-entific claims, and claims on Web sites and then dismissesthe area without a systematic or thorough review of the ac-tual published scientific literature. For instance, she fails toconsider a growing body of research that clearly differenti-ates EI from either personality or IQ-related measures.Similarly, her discussion of the research on the link be-tween EI and real-world success cites only two studies, oneof which is a dissertation. She ignores the many other pub-lished studies that demonstrate a link between EI and per-formance in various work contexts. Finally, in proposingthat EI competencies not be taught in schools, Waterhouseoverlooks a large body of evaluation research suggestingthat not only can those competencies be taught but doing soalready has contributed to important social, emotional, andacademic gains for children.EI is a young theory, still at an early stage in develop-ment and hypothesis testing. Theory-building proceedsthrough successive testable claims, resulting in more re-fined theories that are evidence-based. EI theory is in thishypothesis-testing stage. Therefore, it is important to con-sider all the evidence.THE PROBLEM OFCONFLICTING CONSTRUCTSWaterhouse (2006) is troubled by the fact that there are manyconflicting constructs of EI. However, at this early stage ofthe theory’s development, the generation of several versionsof EI theory is a sign of vitality in the field not a weakness. IQtheory has, likewise, had multiple versions—Guilford,Cattell, Wechsler, and Sternberg notable among many others.In fact, after nearly 100 years of research and theory, therestill is not a consensus about what IQ is or the best way tomeasure it. Expecting such a consensus for EI, especially atthis stage of the theory’s development, seems to be holding itto a different standard.EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST, 41(4), 239–245Copyright © 2006, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Correspondence should be addressed to Cary Cherniss, Graduate Schoolof Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University, 152FrelinghuysenRd.,Piscataway,NJ 08854.E-mail: [email protected] of the theoretical work on EI has explored the dif-ferences between several major models, and the differencesare important. However, there is considerable overlap amongthe models, and it is in this overlap that one can find at least aprovisional definition of the concept that can guide dis-course. Specifically, all of the models recognize that EI in-volves two broad components: awareness and managementof one’s own emotions and awareness and management ofothers’ emotions. So, for instance, one of the major modelsincludes a dimension labeled “Perception of Emotion,”which encompasses both awareness of one’s own emotionsand awareness of others’ emotions (Mayer, Salovey, Caruso,& Sitarenios, 2003). Similarly, this model has a dimensionlabeled “Management of Emotion,” which covers both man-agement of one’s own emotions and management of others’.In other models, these two aspects of emotion managementare divided into self and other (Goleman, 2001).There also has been some confusion between the underly-ing core abilities of EI and the many social and emotional“competencies” that are built on those core abilities. Al-though more theoretical work is needed to resolve this confu-sion, Goleman (2001) has proposed a “theory of perfor-mance” as a way of clarifying this important distinction.Waterman, along with other critics, is right in arguing thatwriters are not always clear about these different distinctionsand meanings when they use the term “emotional intelli-gence.” However, although conflicting constructs continue tocharacterize EI theory, researchers have made progress dur-ing the last few years in clearing up some of the most trouble-some sources of confusion.THE RELATION BETWEEN EI, IQ, ANDPERSONALITYNumerous studies have examined the relation between EI andtwo sets of older constructs: cognitive ability and personality.Although some studies have suggested that EI adds nothingnew, the preponderanceof publishedresearch indicates thatEIdoes in fact represent a set of abilities that are distinct from ei-ther IQ or the “Big Five” personality traits (openness to novelexperience, conscientiousness, extraversion vs. introversion,agreeableness, and neuroticism).In considering the “construct validity” issue, it is useful tokeep in mind that there are several different models of EI thatnow are being studied, and each has been measured in a dif-ferent way. The amount of research support for divergent andincremental validity differs for each of these models andmeasures. Nevertheless, the weight of the evidence now sup-ports the claim that EI is distinct from IQ, personality, or re-lated constructs (Mayer et al., 2003).For instance, Palmer, Donaldson, and Stough (2002) foundthat a subscale of the Trait Meta Mood Scale measuring “clar-ity”of emotional perceptionpredictedvariancein lifesatisfac-tion above and beyond positive and negative affect. In anotherstudy, Palmer, Gardner, and Stough (2003) found only smallcorrelations between scores on the Swinburne


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