Emotional Ignorance

Emotional intelligence is often mistakenly thought of as gut instinct. But emotional intelligence may actually be a skill you can learn.

By Camille Chatterjee, published on November 1, 2000 - last reviewed on August 21, 2008

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.