Emotional intelligence: A promise unfulfilled?

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Emotional intelligence (EI) is a relatively new construct in differential psychology. Proponents of EI have made strong claims for its importance in basic and applied psychology. This article considers whether the promise of EI has been fulfilled. We examine various fundamental challenges to establishing EI as a major individual differences factor, including cross-cultural issues. We then examine strategies for assessing EI as a personal quality distinct from general intelligence and personality, and evaluate leading tests and scales for EI. Various sources of validity evidence demonstrate the value of research on EI, but we also identify various weaknesses of existing instruments. It appears that there is no strong, over-arching general factor of EI that shapes human emotional functioning across a range of diverse contexts. Instead, we advocate a “multipolar” conception of EI that discriminates temperament, information-processing, emotion-regulation and acquired skills. Focusing research on more narrowly defined but conceptually coherent research domains may be a more productive strategy than seeking to define an all-embracing general EI.

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