Emotional intelligence is a vague incoherent concept introduced by Harvard scholar Daniel Goleman. Blogger race realist has described it as a hybrid of IQ and the best personality traits. I would say it’s a hybrid of general intelligence (g), Theory of Mind, self-awareness, and the best personality traits.
A lot of people find it a useful term because conventional IQ tests do an incomplete job measuring social cognition, and they want a term to describe people who are smart at understanding human emotions, however we now have a term for that: Theory of Mind (ToM). And Goleman ruined his whole construct by not distinguishing between people who are smart at emotions (i.e. a master manipulator), and those who just have good emotions (someone who doesn’t feel the need to overeat).
But historically there’s been a very clear distinction between emotions (that which feels, wants, and desires) and the intellect (that which thinks, knows, and understands). In my opinion, the intellect is the part of the brain that problem solves (intelligence) while emotions are the problems that need to be solved.
Even today, factor analysis finds a clear distinction between the cognitive and the emotional.
So the term emotional intelligence is a bit like the term mental physical ability; it’s inherently ambiguous.
How emotions relate to intelligence
If you feel fear, your intelligence solves that problem by figuring out how to make you safe. Now in rare cases, you might have someone with a high IQ who has damage to the part of the brain that feel fear. This person will superficially appear to have an extremely low IQ, because he will stand in the middle of the road, not caring about all the cars that could kill him.
Goleman looks at someone like this and thinks, he must not be very intelligent, despite his high IQ and invents the construct of emotional intelligence to explain his behavior. But the fearless person is NOT lacking in emotional intelligence, he’s lacking the emotional drive to safe his own life because he doesn’t fear it ending. From our fearful perspective, he has an inability to problem solve, but from his fearless perspective, there’s no problem to be solved.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that if someone doesn’t solve the same problems most of us do, whether it’s making money, advancing a career, finding a mate, or simply saving our life, that therefore that person is a poor problem solver. But problems are subjective. If you lack the emotional wiring to feel anxiety about not surviving or succeeding, then by definition, it’s not a problem for you, so you will not solve it. IQ tests attempt to make problems objective by explicitly defining every item as a problem to be solved, thus allowing people with different incentive structures to be compared very accurately.
So if someone has a high IQ, and they appear to be acting stupidly, chances are the behavior is smart on a level you don’t understand, because the high IQ person has already been objectively certified as a good problem solver.
Of course, it’s also stupid to throw the baby out with the bath water just because some of Goleman’s ideas make no sense. He did use some tests that were innovative new measures of actual intelligence such as one where you had to throw a ring around a distant goal post. In order to win the game, you had to pick the most distant goal post that you could possibly succeed in ringing.
This was a cool test of test of self-awareness (which might be an actual cognitive ability, much like Theory of Mind, though perhaps personality traits like self-esteem and narcissism might attenuate it). As Goleman explained to Oprah, “you want to set your goals high, but not so high that they exceed your reach.”
Big brained Oprah replied by saying “I have a different philosophy. Reach for the stars, and if you hit the moon in between, you’re still up there.”
“Well Oprah,” he said “your reach is really really far. You’ve done amazingly well.”
I remember in my nineth grade English class, the teacher asked the class why we study Greek mythology. Every student except me got the answer wrong, but the dumbest answer was from a classmate named Doug who said “because the school board feels its nessecary.”
A few weeks later, he told the oldest and wisest teacher in the high school that he wanted to be a lawyer.
“Oh noooooooooooooooo Dear,” she explained in her condescending voice. “You’re just not a lawyer, dear”
Doug’s friend came to Doug’s defence saying “you could still be a lawyer. You just have to work a lot harder.”
“Oh noooooooooooo Dear,” she now said to the friend. “it’s kind to have high hopes, but it’s much better to have realistic goals and go grab em.”
As a university student, this teacher had taken the WAIS IQ test, and though she was never given her score, the examiner would belittle her with comments like “you can’t be that dumb can you.”
Yet she would go on to marry a lawyer and be the head of the resource department at a high class high school.
Because she had realistic goals and goed grabbed em!
Regardless of her score on the WAIS, she would have done well on the ring test.