Emotional Ignorance

Emotional intelligence (EI) first became a hot household phrase in 1995, thanks to a book on the topic by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. But since then, it's been woefully misinterpreted.

Catherine Daus, Ph.D., a psychologist at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, noticed that "experts," books and workshops often refer to EI as a gut instinct or an innate sense about what others are feeling. But the original EI researchers Jack Mayer, Ph.D., and Peter Salovey, Ph.D., state that EI comprises four cognitive abilities: identifying, using, understanding and managing emotions.

To see whether EI is intuitive or learnable, Daus asked 102 students to take Mayer and Salovey's EI survey and to take a computer test in which they had to define a word shown on screen. All students in the study, presented at a meeting of the American Psychological Association, were asked whether they had used intuition to determine their answers. The more subjects reported using their intuition, the worse they performed on the EI tests. "Emotional intelligence is inversely related with use of intuition," writes Daus. If you are skilled at identifying emotion, she notes, you don't need to go with your gut.

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