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Approaches To Emotional Inelligence In The Scientific Literature | Mayer JD et al.

John D Mayer

The specific-ability approaches concern individual mental capacities important to EI. The integrative-model approaches regard EI as a cohesive, global ability.

Theoretical Approaches to Emotional Intelligence

EI represents abilities that join intelligence and emotion to enhance thought. Some of the abilities that make up EI can be found in the top of Figure 1 (see color insert), in the box labeled “emotional intelligence.” The box contains specific skills, suchasthe ability to accurately identify emotion, and indicates that these individual skills may also be viewed as forming an integrated, global EI. Theoretical approaches to EI, in fact, can be divided ac-cordingtowhether they focus on specific abilities or on more global integrations of those capacities.

The specific-ability approaches concern individual mental capacities important to EI. The integrative-model approaches regard EI as a cohesive, global ability. There exists a third approach to EI as well, called a mixed-model approach to the field (Matthews et al. 2004, Mayer et al. 2000b, McCrae 2000, Neubauer & Freudenthaler 2005). This approach mixes in a variety of non-EI qualities, and, consequently, appears to fall partway or largely outside the boundaries of the concept (Figure 1, bottom). These three approaches to EI are described in detail below.

Specific-Ability Approaches to Emotional Intelligence

Emotional perception and identification

Specific-ability approaches to EI focus on a particular skill or skills that can be considered fundamental to EI. In this section, we outline some of these abilities, beginning with accuracy in emotional perception. The study of perceptual accuracy grew out of an extensive body of research in nonverbal perception. Nonverbal perception includes deciphering social information, such as power and intimacy relationships, along with the accurate recognition of emotional expression. From the nonverbal research, specialized models of emotional accuracy emerged. For example, one model aimed to study a person’s accuracy at perceiving emotion in child and adult faces, voices, and postures (Nowicki & Duke 1994). A number of reviews and key papers provide excellent descriptions of research in nonverbal sensitivity more generally (e.g., Buck 1984, Hall & Bernieri 2001, Rosenthal et al. 1979). Two frequently used measures of perceptual accuracy in emotion are the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy Scales (DANVA and DANVA-2; Nowicki & Duke 1994) and the Japanese and Caucasian Brief Affect Recognition Test (JACBART; Mat-sumoto et al. 2000), though there are others (e.g., Elfenbein et al. 2006). Generally speaking, these scales present pictures of faces and of postures, gestures, or recordings of voice tones; the participant’s task is to correctly identify the emotion expressed. For example, the DANVA-2 employs stimuli that express one of the four emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear.

Use of emotional information in thinking. Some specific-ability models address the ways in which emotions facilitate thinking. For example, emotions may prioritize thinking (Mandler 1975) or allow people to be better decision makers (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005). A person who responds emotionally to important issues will attend to the more crucial aspects of his or her life. By contrast, if the person is constantly frustrated, say, by her subordinate’s minor clerical errors, then broader concerns that are more important may not be addressed (Parrott 2002). In addition, certain specific emotions can foster given types

of thinking. For example, positive emotions promote greater creativity in some contexts (Amabile et al. 2005, Averill & Nunley 1992, Isen 2001, Lyubomirsky et al. 2005).

Part of emotional facilitation is to know how to include emotions in, and exclude emotions from, thought. On the Emotional Stroop test (Richards et al. 1992), people first see neutral words printed in varying colors and must say the colors without being distracted by the words. In a second condition, negative/anxiety emotion words are employed; in a third condition, positive emotion words might be employed. It is common for people to be distracted and read the emotion word rather than say the color. Those with higherEI might exhibit less interference from the emotion words (e.g., Masia et al. 1999, Richards et al. 1992).

Reasoning about emotions: emotional appraisal, labeling, and language. Another set of specific-ability models concerns emotional reasoning and understanding. For example, emotion-appraisal researchers have developed decision rules for matching a given emotion to the class of situation that has elicited it. If a person experiences fear, for example, it is likely that he is facing a situation that is threatening, raises thoughts of bad things happening, and elicits a need to escape (Roseman 1984, p. 210; Scherer et al. 2001). Related to such appraisals also are the accurate labeling and categorization of feelings (Clore et al. 1987, Innes-Ker & Nieden-thal 2002). Theorists have argued that accurate appraisal may be a hallmark of emotionally intelligent responding (MacCann et al. 2004, p. 41; Parrott 2002, pp. 354–355). If a person’s appraisal process is awry, then he or she may misunderstand an event or its consequences and react inappropriately.

As another example, emotional understanding may involve being able to describe one’s own and others’ feelings. For instance, the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS; Lane et al. 1990) presents 20 emotionally evocative situations involving the test taker and a fictional person. Participants write both about how they and the other person would feel in the situation. Responses are scored according to whether the test taker appropriately includes emotional responses and the degree of sophistication (complexity) of those responses, including, for example, the individual’s capacity to differentiate between his or her own and others’ responses.

Emotion management. Another relevant ability area concerns emotional self-management. This area grew out of clinical findings that, for example, one’s emotionality could become more positive by reframing perceptions of situations (Beck et al. 1979), as well as from the idea that when at work, individuals often exert considerable emotional self-control (Hochschild 1983). A sizeable amount of research on emotional self-management and regulation has emerged in parallel with that on EI (Gross 1998, Lazarus 1994), including in the child development domain (Eisenberg 2000). Denham and colleagues (2003), for instance, have used behavioral observations of children in order to assess their frustration tolerance, asking observers to rate the children’s degree of distress, crying, and tantrums, among other indices.


Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy Scales


Japanese and Caucasian Brief Affect Recognition Test

LEAS: Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale

Integrative-Model Approaches to Emotional Intelligence

Izard’s Emotional Knowledge Approach.

The key element in integrative models of EI is the joining of several specific abilities to obtain an overall sense of EI. For example, Izard’s Emotional Knowledge Test (EKT; Izard et al. 2001) asks test takers to match an emotion such as sadness with a situation such as “your best friend moves away,” as well as to identify emotions in faces. It provides an integrative measure of EI, focusing in particular on emotional perception and understanding. Izard’s test also is important because it is designed for use with younger age groups (e.g., as early as 3–4 years old) relative to other measures of EI.

Izard (2001) sometimes prefer to speak of emotional knowledge as opposed to emotional intelligence. Psychologists often speak about an aptitude-knowledge continuum (e.g., Lichten & Wainer 2000). At one end of this continuum, aptitude refers to the capacity to reason and learn; at the other end, knowledge refers to what a person actually has learned. Both intelligence and knowledge tests operate according to similar principles and rely on assessing a person’s knowledge. Generally speaking, intelligence tests emphasize general breadth and rate of learning as well as the ability to reason with unfamiliar problems. Knowledge tests, by contrast, measure attained knowledge. Both concepts fit within the scope of EI studies, as defined here.

The Four-Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence. The Four-Branch Model of EI is another integrative approach (Mayer & Salovey 1997, Salovey & Mayer 1990). The model views overallEIas joining abilities from four areas: (a) accurately perceiving emotion, (b) using emotions to facilitate thought, (c) understanding emotion, and (d) managing emotion (Mayer & Salovey 1997, Mayer et al. 2003). Each of these areas is viewed as developing from early childhood onward. For example, in perceiving emotion, a person’s ability to recognize basic emotions in faces is likely to precede the ability to detect the faking of emotional expressions (Mayer & Salovey 1997, p. 10). As skills grow in one area (e.g., perceiving emotions), so will skills in other areas, such as understanding emotions and being able to regulate them.

The Four-Branch Model has been measured by a series of instruments, the most recent of which is the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, or MSCEIT (Mayer et al. 2002b). This test is composed of eight individual tasks similar to those described in individual areas above. Two tasks are used to measure each branch of the model. For example, emotional perception is measured by asking participants to identify emotions in faces and landscapes. Emotional facilitation is assessed, in one subscale, by asking participants to identify which emotions promote which kinds of thoughts and activities. Emotional understanding is measured via understanding how emotions blend [e.g., “Which two emotions together are closest to contempt: (a) sadness and fear or(b) anger and disgust?”]. Emotional management of oneself and others is measured by presenting test takers with vignettes describing a social situation and asking them how emotions mightbe managed in the situation (Mayer et al. 2002a). The MSCEIT replaced the earlier, lengthier, Mul-tifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS; Mayer et al. 1999).

Mixed-Model Approaches to Emotional Intelligence

The third approach to EI is often referred to as a Mixed Model approach because of the mixed qualities that such models target. These approaches use very broad definitions of EI that include “noncognitive capability, competency, or skill” (Bar-On 1997) and/or “emotionally and socially intelligent behavior” (Bar-On 2004, p. 122), and “dispositions from the personality domain” (Petrides & Furnham 2003, pp. 278–280). Tett et al. (2005) drew on Salovey & Mayer’s (1990) original EI model, which they interpreted in a broader, more mixed-model fashion than the authors had intended (see Mayer et al. 2000b, p. 401).

More concretely, most measures in this category assess one or more EI attributes, such as accurate emotional perception, but then to varying degrees mix in other scales of happiness, stress tolerance, and self-regard (Bar-On 1997); adaptability, (low) impulsiveness and social competence (Boyatzis & Sala 2004, Petrides &Furnham 2001); and creative thinking, flexibility, and intuition versus reason (Tett et al. 2005). Relative to the conceptual development we described above, these mixed-in attributes lack a primary focus on EI, as described in this review.

Relating Emotional Intelligence to Other Psychological Variables

Variables included in mixed models such as assertiveness and need for achievement surely are important tostudy—but are not partofEI, as that conceptisdeveloped here.Aclearer approach istoconsiderEIadiscrete variable and then study it in relation to such other characteristics. Several theorists have examined EI in the context of positive and negative affect and stress tolerance (Izard 2001; Parrott 2002, pp. 351–355; Zeidner et al. 2003); others have positioned EI, the need for achievement, and other diverse traits in the context of personality (Mayer 2005, 2006). These latter models connect EI to related variables in a way that is consistent with the great majority of psychologists’ nomological networks.

EKT: Emotional Knowledge Test

MSCEIT: Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test

MEIS: Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale

Mixed Model: a theoretical approach that equates diverse psychological traits, abilities, styles, and other characteristics to EI

Mayer JD et al. Abilities: Emotional Intelligence. // John D. Mayer, Richard D. Roberts, and Sigal G. Barsade. The Annual Review of Psychology. 2008.59:507-36; p.509-514. http://psych.annualreviews.org

Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence by John D. Mayer, Richard D. Roberts, and Sigal G. Barsade (PDF)