Critical Evaluation of the Concept of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the “ability to understand, reason about, and use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought and action” (Ford & Tamir, 2012, p. 285). It is a complex notion which has become rather popular in many settings, including educational ones. Along with other forms of intelligence, EI can be taught, and modern educational institutions work to achieve this outcome for the benefit of their learners and communities.

EI consists of the ability to perceive and identify emotions, integrate them into one’s thinking process, and use them to one’s benefit or the benefit of other people (Ford & Tamir, 2012; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2008). A person with high EI is more likely to be able to understand, control, and regulate their emotions and recognize the feelings of others. As a result, EI has multiple benefits; for example, it has been shown to have a positive impact on one’s health (Ford & Tamir, 2012). Furthermore, EI is described as essential for leaders (Petitta & Naughton, 2015). The ability to regulate one’s emotions can be generally helpful in a variety of situations; for instance, anger can assist in resolving a problem, but happiness facilitates social interactions (Ford & Tamir, 2012). Also, it is not clear if EI is related to emotional manipulation, but recent research suggests that it is not (Austin, Farrelly, Black, & Moore, 2007). Thus, EI is a predominantly beneficial phenomenon that does not seem to have a disadvantage.

Because of its benefits, people try to find the ways of developing EI. Modern research indicates that EI can and should be taught; school-aged children can already be engaged in the process (Goleman, Barlow, & Bennett, 2010). EI-focused education would be expected to improve the well-being of learners and entire communities. Consequently, modern schools attempt to incorporate EI, as well as other types of intelligence, into their curricula.

Indeed, there are other varieties of intelligence that may be comparable to EI. For instance, social intelligence (SI) is the understanding and appropriate management of human relations. This concept is connected to EI because people with higher EI tend to handle their social connections better (Mayer et al., 2008). Ecological intelligence (ECI) refers to the “understanding of all natural systems” and incorporates the “empathy for all life” (Goleman et al., 2010, p. 91). It is also related to EI and SI, but ECI is not limited to human relations; it requires the understanding and management of the relations of humans with the rest of the natural world. EI, SI, and ECI are interconnected, but they still can be viewed as separate and valid concepts.

Admittedly, SI has not received too much attention in research, which may be connected to its early criticisms (Mayer et al., 2008). Also, Mayer et al. (2008) note that EI has a long history which involved significant criticisms and problems that might have discredited the notion. However, Goleman et al. (2010) provide important evidence which suggests that EI, SI, and ECI are indeed valid concepts. The authors highlight the idea that the introduction of multiple intelligences clarifies the role of schools in children’s development. According to Goleman et al. (2010), ECI, EI, and SI have a major impact on education and guide changes in it, which have been evidenced to improve academic achievements. Thus, it can be concluded that SI, ECI, and EI are interrelated and can be integrated, but they are still separate and significant on their own because they refer to different abilities which require equal attention in education.

To summarize, EI is among the abilities which the modern education attempts to foster in learners because of their multiple benefits. Related skills, including SI and ECI, are similarly valuable, which is shown by research evidence, but they should be viewed as separate to ensure that they are paid sufficient attention. However, the interrelationships between the phenomena imply that they also can be integrated for an improved educational experience.


Austin, E., Farrelly, D., Black, C., & Moore, H. (2007). Emotional intelligence, Machiavellianism and emotional manipulation: Does EI have a dark side? Personality and Individual Differences, 43(1), 179-189. Web.

Ford, B., & Tamir, M. (2012). When getting angry is smart: Emotional preferences and emotional intelligence. Emotion, 12(4), 685-689. Web.

Goleman, D., Barlow, Z., & Bennett, L. (2010). Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(4), 87-98. Web.

Mayer, J., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. (2008). Emotional intelligence: New ability or eclectic traits? American Psychologist, 63(6), 503-517. Web.

Petitta, L., & Naughton, S. (2015). Mapping the Association of emotional contagion to leaders, colleagues, and clients: Implications for leadership. Organization Management Journal, 12(3), 178-192. Web.

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