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Seven Myths about emotional intelligence

Article in Psychological Inquiry · July 2004


DOI: 10.1207/s15327965pli1503_01

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Psychological Inquiry Copyright © 2004 by
2004, Vol. 15, No. 3, 179-196 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

TARGET ARTICLES

Seven Myths About Emotional Intelligence


Gerald Matthews
Department of Psychology
University of Cincinnati, USA
Richard D. Roberts
Center for New Constructs
Educational Testing Service
Princeton, NJ
Moshe Zeidner
Department of Education
Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Emotions
University of Haifa, Israel

Inspired by an influx of academic research, the writ- sented in both the populist and specialist literature
ing of several best-selling trade texts, and frequent me- have little empirical substance (Matthews, Zeidner et
dia exposure, emotional intelligence (El) has emerged al., 2002). Stripped of scientific trappings, it remains
recently as one of the most high profile of the psycholog- plausible that El is nothing but the latest in a long line
ical constructs (Matthews, Zeidner, & Roberts, 2002). of psychological fads. On the other hand, because sys-
The concept has also prospered due both to cultural tematic scientific research is just beginning. El could
trends and orientations that stress the previously ne- indeed mature into a construct that is theoretically
glected role of the emotions (with some claiming it con- meaningful, empirically important, and practically
stitutes a Zeitgeist) and to increasing efforts at standard- useful. In this article, we examine seven myths about
ized assessment of individual differences in El (Mayer, El, that is, strong, widely believed claims that purport-
Salovey & Caruso, 2000a). Common claims suggest edly give the concept of El scientific credibility. In
that tests for El are predictive of important educational each case, we identify weaknesses in evidence and ar-
and occupational criteria, beyond that proportion of gument that challenge the value of the El construct.
variance that general intellectual ability predicts. Thus, Today's myth could become tomorrow's accepted
the field has increasingly important implications for so- wisdom, or it could be conclusively falsified. Eor each
ciety, particularly in the impetus to improve emotional claim, we also evaluate the likelihood that it will even-
functioning in real life. Proponents of El claim that indi- tually be substantiated by research. This article focuses
viduals can enjoy happier and more fulfilled lives if they on what we see as the key shortcomings of current
are aware of both their own emotions and those of other work on El and the prospects for an eventual science of
people and able to regulate those emotions effectively. El. However, we also acknowledge the intrinsic inter-
Another reason for the widespread, often uncritical, em- est of the subject material and the various research ef-
bracing of the El construct is the suggestion that El gives forts inspired by the concept. Our aim is not to dismiss
hope for a more Utopian, classless society. This vision work on El out of hand, but to examine where the first
for the future stands in contrast to research suggesting a wave of research on the construct is meeting barriers to
preordained "cognitive elite" (Hermstein & Murray, progress, and whether those barriers can be overcome.
1994) because El is within anyone's realm to learn and
cultivate. Goleman's (1995) widely read book claims
that raising El is a panacea for all manner of psychologi- Myth 1: Deflnitions of El are
cal and social problems. Conceptually Coherent
Despite the seeming importance of these claims,
scientific investigation of a clearly identified construct Proponents assert El is a conceptually coherent con-
of El is sparse. Many of the current propositions pre- struct covering a wide array of emotional, social, and
MATTHEWS. ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

personal competencies (e.g., Bar-On, 2000). However, possible that these different elements of emotion regula-
examination of the literature suggests there is no clear, tion are interrelated; temperament can shape skill
consensual definition of El, and the multitude of quali- acquisition, which in turn shapes self-awareness, as ar-
ties covered by the concept appears at times over- ticulated in our investment model of emotional compe-
whelming (Roberts, 2001). Conceptualizations of El tence (Zeidner et al., 2003). However, there is only hm-
range from an ability for processing information that is ited evidence for such a conceptualization, and it could
applied to emotions, subject to principles governing be the case that competence depends on multiple con-
the intellect (e.g., Mayer, Salovey et al., 2000a), to a structs that are only weakly interrelated.
complex interaction of qualities of emotions, mood, There are also some issues that could be problem-
personality, and social orientation applied in both in- atic for all these various conceptualizations. First, the
terpersonal and intrapersonal situations (Bar-On, causal status of El as an influence on behavior is of-
2000). Thus, Mayer and Salovey (1997) construed El ten unclear. Within a conventional differential psy-
as the capacity to reason about emotions. This formula- chology model, the construct should influence or bias
tion includes the ability to accurately perceive, ap- behaviors and the outcomes of emotional encounters.
praise, and express emotions; the ability to access or However, especially in the writings of Goleman
generate feelings that facilitate thought; the ability to (1995) and Bar-On (1997), the distinction between
understand emotions and emotional knowledge; and cause and effect is blurred. For example, Bar-On
the abihty to regulate emotions to promote emotional (1997) referred to happiness and positive mood as
and intellectual growth. Goleman (1995), on the other components of El, whereas positive emotions could
hand, defined El by exclusion—El represents all those be better seen as outcomes, dependent on successful
positive qualities that are not IQ. Thus, he proudly pro- resolution of challenging encounters. Second, it is as-
nounced: "There is an old-fashioned word for the body sumed that El generalizes across qualitatively differ-
of skills that emotional intelligence represents: charac- ent kinds of event and challenge (e.g., that a person
ter" (p. 34). In contrast, Bar-On (1997) characterized who is adept at managing anger is also capable in
El as "an array of non-cognitive capabilities, compe- dealing with situations that evoke fear, sexual attrac-
tencies, and skills that influence one's abihty to suc- tion, or boredom). This assumption appears to con-
ceed in coping with environmental demands and flict with basic emotions theories that propose that
pressures" (p. 14). Thus, there is little agreement over each emotion is supported by a distinct
whether El represents a cognitive aptitude for process- neuropsychological system (e.g., Panksepp, 1998)
ing emotional stimuli, attributes of personality such as and with the cruder distinction between positive af-
integrity and character, or some facility for adapting to fect and negative affect as independent systems. Re-
challenging situations. The range and scope of defini- markably, the generality of El across emotions has
tions that currently exist within the literature make in- not been tested empirically. An alternative position is
evitable comparisons between the science of El and the that emotional competence is linked to specific emo-
allegory underlying the Tower of Babel. tions or contexts, such as intimate relationships, the
Zeidner, Matthews, Roberts, and McCann (2003) re- workplace, and making use of leisure time. Indeed,
viewed developmental evidence suggesting at least El could be seen as a form of goodness of fit between
three qualitatively different types of construct that can the person and the social environment (Zeidner,
plausibly labeled EL First, the child's temperament, in- Matthews, & Roberts, 2001). We can function more
fluenced by biology and genetics, can affect the social adaptively when our beliefs about emotion are con-
interactions with caregivers and others that shape emo- gruent with the beliefs of others around us, irrespec-
tional development. For example, distress-prone chil- tive of whether those beliefs are veridical.
dren can elicit poorer quality parenting, especially as A third issue is that most models of El assume that it
these children and parents share common genes for per- can be assessed via declarative knowledge. That is, in-
sonality that can increase the likelihood of mutual frus- dividuals can either directly report on those personal
tration or withdrawal from social engagement (e.g., qualities that constitute El or they can describe their
Kochanska & Coy, 2002). Second, emotion regulation evaluations of emotional stimuli and what actions they
depends on culture-bound learned skills that include might take in response to such stimuli. However, stud-
rules for experiencing appropriate feelings, displaying ies of skill (e.g., Anderson, 1996) suggest that much
emotion, and coping with emotional problems (Den- expertise is procedural in nature; the person can per-
ham, 1998). Such skills can be both implicit and explicit. form the skill with competence, but has little conscious
Lack of El can reside in part in faulty learning or in learn- awareness of the processes that support expertise. Con-
ing that proves to be inappropriate for new situations to ceivably, emotional expertise could be implicit rather
which the person is exposed. Third, emotional discourse than explicit, requiring measures based on behavioral
builds insightful, personalized emotional understand- assessment, such as response times in information-pro-
ing that provides the person with the capacity for cessing tasks or observation of competence in real-Hfe
self-evaluation and self-reflection (Saami, 2000). It is settings. For example, the academic knowledge of

180
TARGET ARTICLE: SEVEN MYTHS

emotion assessed as one of the subtests of the Mayer, tions and intelligence, could lead to more general
Salovey et al. (2000a) test for El may not be predictive agreement concerning the frames of reference under
of individual differences in behavioral skill. Knowing which the concept of El might be investigated.
that hopelessness leads to depression, for example,
does not automatically confer social skills for commu-
nicating with depressed individuals and helping them
Myth 2: Measures of El Meet
to manage their emotional problems.
Standard Psychometric Criteria
Such differing definitions and neglected conceptual
problems have led to considerable confusion in the lit- Since the term El first appeared, there has been a
erature. Table 1 summarizes eight different conceptu- rapid propagation of measures to assess the construct
alizations to which we refer that suggest different (for reviews, see Ciarrochi, Chan, Caputi, & Roberts,
assessment techniques. How constructs derived from 2001; Matthews, Zeidner et al., 2002; Roberts,
these different approaches would intercorrelate is un- Zeidner, & Matthews, 2001). Not surprisingly, the
certain; systematic work of this kind could either sug- content of each of these tests tends to vary as a function
gest a multiplicity of unrelated constructs or some of the theoretical conceptualization (Mayer, Salovey et
pervasive El factor expressed through many different al., 2000a, Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000b), mean-
media. In defense of El, however, one should bear in ing again that there could be little commonality be-
mind that, after over a century of research in the field tween instruments (Zeidner et al., 2001). Nevertheless,
of intelligence, there remains controversy over the pre- it is possible to classify these measures into two main
cise meaning of intelligence. Note however, that there families of assessment tools: self-report (i.e., typical)
is certainly consensus in differential psychology con- and performance-based (i.e., maximal) measures.
cerning the operational means for arriving at intelli- Self-report measures generally sample a diversity of
gent behavior (see Boring, 1923). Moreover, following constructs and hence assume a mixed model of El (i.e.,
two very famous conferences, in which the concept of a combination of both ability and personality traits). A
cognitive intelligence was debated, there is a modicum number of problems and serious omissions currently
of agreement concerning its nature (see "Intelligence plague the research on El that employs the self-report
and Its Measurement," 1921; Stemberg & Detterman, methodology (see the following discussion). To com-
1986). These forums have suggested that the concept bat such problems, Mayer, Caruso, and Salovey (1999)
of intelligence represents some adaptive function hav- suggested that performance-based measures, akin to
ing real-life consequences. Perhaps a similar series of those found in the intelligence literature, are requisite
debates, involving luminaries in the field of both emo- for El to assume the status of a legitimate cognitive

Tabte 1. Some Alternative Conceptualizations of El


Conceptualization Examples of High El Qualities Possible Assessment Techniques

Temperament A basic tendency to be positive, optimistic, Personality questionnaires


and agreeable
Character Self-control, motivation, integrity, and Personality questionnaires? Assessment of
moral values may be problematic
morality
Basic aptitudes for processing emotions Objective performance on
Fast and accurate perception,
memory-retrieval, and reasoning information-processing processing task
(e.g., emotion Stroop)
Adaptiveness Successful coping with life challenges and Questionnaire or observation-based
demands that elicit emotion assessment of coping resources
Acquired implicit skills Accurate unconscious processing of Uncertain—Two possibilities are (a)
culture-specific events, nonverbal observation/measurement of relevant
behaviors that support social interaction behaviors, and (b) use of unconscious
priming techniques
Acquired explicit skills Knowledge of other people's beliefs about Standardized tests assessing specific beliefs
emotion, availability of consciously
accessible strategies for emotion regulation
Insightful self-awareness Consciously accessible self-beliefs and Uncertain—Some beliefs may be assessed by
metacognitions that support personalized questionnaires; others may require
emotion regulation "clinical" interview
Good emotional person-environment fit Congruence of personal knowledge of Uncertain—Cultural environment must be
emotion with the beliefs of the surrounding assessed independently from personal
culture attributes
Note. El = emotional intelligence.

181
MATTHEWS, ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

ability. This proposition has resulted in development test on two occasions, the scores obtained both times
of the Multi-factor Emotional Intelligence Scale should be similar. This is termed test-retest reliability.
(MEIS) and its successor, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso If performance is inconsistent, then whatever is being
Emotional Intelligence Scale (MSCEIT). measured can be taken to be unstable and of question-
Determining whether El is a measurable quality is able utility. Important also is the extent to which re-
central to its development as a scientific construct. In sponses people give on items within the same test
common with many individual difference constructs, correlate with other items of the test (i.e., internal con-
much El research proceeds via an (albeit questionable) sistency reliability).
operational definition, with the aim of developing a Self-report measures of El show satisfactory inter-
test with acceptable measurement properties. The fo- nal consistency reliability across a variety of cultures,
cus then turns to conducting further empirical research as well as decent levels of test-retest reliability over 1-
to develop a more articulate theory of the biological and 4-month periods (Bar-On, 1997, 2000). The aver-
and psychological processes that supports the con- age subtest alpha coefficients range from a low of .69
struct assessed by the test. The rich history of psycho- to a high of .86, with an overall average of internal con-
logical assessment has provided a series of sistency coefficient of .76 for the seven countries ex-
psychometric principles for determining what are ac- amined in the EQ-i manual (Bar-On, 1997). By
ceptable measurement properties of psychological contrast, the scoring of performance-based measures
tests. Thus, based on internationally acclaimed opinion of El have been reported to suffer from a number of
and research (see e.g., Anastasi & Urbina, 1997), the problems in relation to reliability. To begin with, some
ideal El test should minimally satisfy each of the fol- subtests comprising the MEIS (and also, the MSCEIT)
lowing four standard psychometric criteria. fail to exhibit satisfactory levels of internal consis-
tency reliability. Thus, in their psychometric analyses
of scores obtained from the MEIS, Mayer, Caruso, and
Content Validity Salovey (2000) demonstrated that reliabilities ranged
from a very low 0.49 to a very high 0.94 for consensus
This criterion deals with conceptualization issues scores; Ciarrochi, Chan, and Caputi (2000) obtained
and the decision regarding qualities should be accepted similar results. Clearly, some of these reliabilities are
or excluded as components of EL For example, if a test not in the acceptable range, certainly when intended to
is to serve as an emotion perception measure, develop- be used in applied settings for selection, intervention,
ers need to ensure that test items cover all major as- and treatment purposes (see Anastasi & Urbina, 1997).
pects of the area and in the correct proportions. Thus, For expert scores, the reliabilities obtained by Mayer,
such a test should probably cover the perception of Caruso et al. (2000) were even lower, ranging from
emotions in faces, music, abstract designs, human in- 0.35 to 0.86. Consequently, the accuracy of measure-
teraction, and colors (to name but a few that have es- ment is a function of the scoring procedure. Given the
tablished literatures surrounding them). Moreover, test variation of reliabilities with disparate scoring proce-
developers should not focus exclusively on one type of dures, more detailed attention needs to be given to in-
perception (e.g., happiness) to the exclusion (and detri- vestigating the reliability of performance-based
ment) of other basic emotions (e.g., fear, anger, sad- measures of EL
ness, disgust, surprise, etc.). In addition, the reliability of subtests that form the
Content validity is difficult to ascertain when the highest branches of the model, and are thus probably
candidate psychological test measures an ill-defined the most important components for prediction of
trait (Gregory, 1996). Interestingly, one of the primary real-world social behaviors (e.g., progressions, manag-
methods used for ascertaining content validity in the ing others), are among the poorest in this battery. Re-
past has been the consensual judgment of experts in the cently, however, we have begun to bring various
field, such that content validity can actually be quanti- statistical scaling techniques to bear on this issue, such
fied (see e.g., Hambleton, 1984; Lawshe, 1975). To as the Method of Reciprocal Averages (MRA), with
date, it is curious that such techniques have not been promising results (McCann, Roberts, Matthews, &
utilized with the myriad psychological tests suppos- Zeidner, 2004).
edly assessing El that have appeared recently in the
psychological literature.
Predictive Validity

Reliability El measures should predict important practical out-


comes of emotional life—if not, the test is of little use.
For El to exist as a scientifically meaningful indi- These outcomes could include how well people deal
vidual difference construct, people must differ reliably with stress, how effective they are at maintaining inti-
across its major dimensions. If a person takes the same mate relationships, how respected they are by their

182
TARGET ARTICLE: SEVEN MYTHS

peers, and how well they deal with others in emotional with a range of self-reported social adjustment mea-
turmoil (Ciarrochi et al,, 2001), In organizational psy- sures in a sample of 103 college students. The
chology, in particular, the extent that a given psycho- MSCEIT Managing Emotions subtest correlated sig-
logical test satisfies this criterion has, in recent years, nificantly (in the range from ,22 to ,36) with several of
become one of the hot topics of that field (see e.g,, these measures, including social skills, positive rela-
Schmidt & Hunter, 1998), Applied studies show that tions with others, and lack of negative interaction with
the claim typically made in the popular literature that close friends. Most of the correlations remained signif-
El is superior to measures of cognitive intelligence in icant, though of small magnitude, when the Big Five
predicting job performance appears to be spurious were controlled, Matthews, Emo, Funke, Zeidner, and
(Zeidner, Matthews, & Roberts, 2004), Roberts (2003) found that the MSCEIT predicted more
Only a few studies have addressed the predictive positive initial mood, even with the Big Five con-
validity of El tests in laboratory settings, so far, with trolled, but failed to predict reduced stress response to
mixed results (for a review, see Matthews, Zeidner et performing various demanding tasks. Thus, as with
al,, 2002), Much of the validation effort has been di- self-report measures, it is difficult to say if the glass is
rected toward criteria relating to personal adjustment half full or half empty. Ability tests do add to predic-
(i,e,, wellbeing, life satisfaction, absence of tive validity for some criteria, but only modestly.
psychopathology). The EQ-i (Bar-On, 1997) is quite Again, it is a limitation that almost all the criteria used
predictive of such criteria, but validity in this instance in these studies are based on self-report.
could be largely the product of overlap of the EQ-i with It is also unclear from the validation studies whether
the Big Five and related traits such as anxiety, which the four branches of the MSCEIT index some common
we address further in the following discussion. The overarching ability that supports social adaptation or
SSRI (Schutte Self-Report Inventory; Schutte et al,, whether each branch exerts a separate influence. The
1998) also predicts criteria such as life satisfaction, so- study by Lopes et al, (2003) suggests that only the
cial support, and low levels of depression and life Managing Emotions branch was consistently related to
stress (Ciarrochi, Chan, & Bagjar, 2001; Ciarrochi, better adjustment, Ciarrochi et al, (2002) obtained data
Deane, & Anderson, 2002; Saklofske, Austin, & suggesting that Emotion Perception could even have
Minski, 2003), although it too shares much variance some maladaptive effects. "Emotionally perceptive
with established personality traits. The last two studies people appear to be more strongly impacted by stress
cited found some evidence for discriminant validity of than their less perceptive counterparts, expressing
the SSRI with respect to the Big Five (Saklofske et al,, higher levels of depression, hopeless, and suicidal
2003) and trait hopelessness (Ciarrochi et al,, 2002), ideation" (p, 205; i,e,, when daily hassles were at a
However, in all cases, the additional variance in crite- high level). Individuals low in emotion perception
ria explained was small (< 5%), Questionnaire mea- (i,e,, emotionally unintelligent) can be protected
sures of El, especially the SSRI, can add modestly to against stress due to suppression of awareness of has-
the predictive power of standard personality traits. sles or of their negative impact.
However, the additional variance explained in criteria
relating to personal adjustment is too small to justify
the identification of self-report El as a major individual Construct Validity
difference factor akin to general intelligence or the Big
Five, The research is also limited by its reliance on Construct validation is the process of testing
self-report criteria, Fumham, Petrides, and whether a test actually measures some theoretical con-
Spencer-Bowdage (2002) found that high El individu- struct or trait (Anastasi & Urbina, 1997), The demon-
als tend to be repressors, who suppress their negative stration of construct validity rests on a systematic
emotions, suggesting a possible bias in self-reports of program of research using diverse procedures. For suc-
adjustment. cessful evaluation of the construct validity of a test, a
Ability-like tests for El also predict criteria related variety of evidence from numerous sources should be
to adjustment and adaptation, but correlations are typi- accumulated that support theoretical understanding of
cally more modest than for self-report measures. the construct. Pivotal questions include resolving
Studies of the MEIS (e,g,, Mayer et al., 1999) suggest whether the test measures empirically what it claims to
that this index of El correlates significantly with life measure theoretically and determining the kinds of re-
satisfaction, self-report social skills, and needs and pa- lations with nontest criteria that the theory predicts ex-
rental warmth; typically correlations are in the range ist (Gregory, 1996). For example, tests of El could be
from ,15 to ,30, Trinidad and Johnson (2002) showed required to pass some of the same empirical tests as a
that MEIS scores are depressed in adolescents prone to cognitive ability measure (e.g., see Roberts et al,,
smoke cigarettes or consume alcohol. Studies are also 2001). In addition, one of the most important forms of
beginning to establish validity for the MSCEIT. Lopes, construct validation involves ascertaining convergent
Salovey, and Straus (2003) correlated the MSCEIT and discriminant validity (Campbell & Fiske, 1959), A

183
MATTHEWS, ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

test should correlate highly with other variables that Mayer-Salovey measure, implying that that the two
the theory specifies should relate to the underlying constructs are actually rather different. Ciarrochi et al.
construct. Thus, alternative tests of El should (2002) showed that emotion perception as assessed ob-
intercorrelate highly. Conversely, the test should not jectively was unrelated to self-report emotion percep-
correlate highly with theoretically unrelated variables tion, measured by the SSRI.
and, if it does, the test could be measuring something Both approaches raise some special problems for
other than the construct targeted for measurement and test development, which we address next. The problem
it could indeed be redundant with existing measures. for the questionnaire-based approach is that self-re-
Establishing construct validity is hindered by lack ports of El may not be distinct from other concepts as-
of theory-based specification of EL Just as current the- sessed in this fashion, especially an array of
ory of cognitive intelligence is informed by studies of personality constructs. The problem for the perfor-
individual differences in information-processing, so mance-based approach is that it requires veridical scor-
too a theory of El requires a description of the key cog- ing of test items, just as cognitive intelligence tests do.
nitive and neural processes that support the It is to detailed discussion of these two issues, in turn,
psychometric construct and an account of how individ- that this critique now turns.
ual differences in processing support real-world adap-
tation (Matthews & Zeidner, 2000). Unfortunately,
current theory refers to general functions more than to Myth 3: Self-Report El is Distinct
specific processes. For example, accurate emotion per- From Existing Personality Constructs
ception is an element of most theories (e.g., Mayer,
Salovey et al., 2000a). However, emotion perception is Self-report indexes generally ask a person to en-
itself supported by a variety of qualitatively different dorse a series of descriptive statements, usually on
types of processing, including (a) subcortical stimulus some form of rating scale. For example, in the Schutte
analysis (e.g., in the amygdale), (b) learned implicit Self-Report Inventory (Schutte et al., 1998) individu-
processing such as biasing by cultural stereotypes, (c) als rate themselves from 1 {strongly disagree) to 5
use of relevant contextual information, and (d) con- {strongly agree) on 33 statements (e.g., "I know why
sciously accessible refiection on emotional meaning. It my emotions change"). It is worth noting of this meth-
is unclear whether individual differences in these dif- odology that self-perceptions of El can be inaccurate,
ferent levels of processing cohere around a common being vulnerable to the range of response sets and so-
construct or map in any simple way onto better or cial desirability factors affiicting self-report measures,
worse adaptation to emotional events. as well as deception and impression management. In-
Given that theory should be process-based, it is cu- deed, emotional competence cannot be consciously ac-
rious that very few published studies of El have em- cessible. For example, questionnaire scales for
ployed experimental paradigms that assess these empathy in fact fail to predict objective measures of
processing routines from objective behavioral mea- empathic accuracy (i.e., rating the emotions and per-
sures such as reaction time, such as the emotional sonality characteristics of others; Davis & Kraus,
Stroop task, that measures diversion of attention from 1997). Ironically, empathic accuracy is better pre-
naming the ink color of words onto the emotional dicted by conventional intelligence (Lippa & Dietz,
meanings of the words (cf. Matthews, Zeidner & Rob- 2000). Similarly, self-report and objectively-assessed
erts, in press). Bar-On (2000) reported an unpublished emotion perception are uncorrelated (Ciarrochi et al.,
study in which, contrary to theory, individuals higher 2002). Such problems are, of course, common to all
in El appeared to be more prone to distraction by the scales based on self-report, including personality as-
word content (see also Matthews, Zeidner et al., 2002). sessment. To counteract this criticism in other fields in
Use of information-processing tasks provide precisely which self-reports are used, researchers have devised a
controlled conditions whereby explanatory models of number of procedures, including comparing self-as-
El can be tested, refined, or otherwise developed sessed responses to reports provided by a respondent's
(Kyllonen & Roberts, in press). peers (e.g., see Costa & McCrae, 1992). However, val-
Thus, despite some genuine progress, especially in idation studies of this type have been conducted with
the ability-testing field, neither performance-based nor respect to the vast majority of self-report measures of
self-report approaches to the assessment of El cur- El, but are urgently needed (see Roberts et al., 2001).
rently meet all four of the Anastasi and Urbina (1997) It is, also questionable whether items asking stu-
criteria. In addition, there is a major disjunction be- dents to self-appraise intellectual ability (e.g., "I am an
tween self-report and performance-based approaches extremely intelligent student") would make for a valid
to El. A curiosity of the field is the neglect of the con- measure of cognitive intelligence. Under the assump-
vergence of the two types of construct. Bar-On (2000) tion that El constitutes a traditional form of intelli-
cited an unpublished study suggesting a correlation of gence, the usefulness of analogous items about one's
only .46 between his questionnaire and the El seems doubtful. Note that past research has reported

184
TARGET ARTICLE: SEVEN MYTHS

rather modest associations between self-rated and ac- intelligence (Derksen, Kramer, & Katzko, 2002). Re-
tual ability measures. A meta-analytic review of 55 sults indicated that the correlations between the EQ-i
studies by Mabe and West (1982) yielded a mean cor- and the General Adult Mental Ability scale were very
relation (i.e., validity coefficient of self-rating) of .34 low, both for the total sample as well as the sexes sepa-
between self-evaluations of intelligence and objective rately. These findings indicate that the two tests are
intelligence test scores. More recent studies (e.g., see psychometrically independent—that the EQ-i is mea-
Paulhus, Lysy, & Yik, 1998) concur that the correla- suring something other than an "intelhgence".
tions between self-reports of intelUgence and mental Newsome et al. (2000) also found that the EQ-i failed
test performance tend to be rather modest (about r = to predict both cognitive ability and academic achieve-
.30). Furthermore, those who are truly lacking in per- ment in a sample of 160 Canadian college students.
formance skill often make inflated self-assessments of Subsequently, we have found near zero correlation be-
ability (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). tween the Schutte Self-Report Inventory and a number
Moreover, tests of El that assess general disposi- (and range) of measures of fiuid and crystallized intel-
tions (e.g., assertiveness, optimism, impulse control) ligence (see Garcia, Roberts, Rouse, Zeidner, &
are tapping dimensions of individual differences that Matthews, 2004). Thus, questionnaire measures tend
relate to established personality constructs rather than to be deficient in both convergent and divergent valid-
to contemporary notions of what constitutes intelli- ity—their correlations with other intelligence factors
gence (Davies, Stankov, & Roberts, 1998; Matthews, are too low (failure of convergent validity) and their
Zeidner et al., 2002; Roberts et al., 2001). Notwith- correlations with personality factors are too high (fail-
standing, empirical data pointing to the substantial re- ure of divergent validity).
lation between El and existing personahty measures
have, curiously, actually been used in support of the
validity and conceptual soundness of El (e.g., Bar-On,
2000). Bar-On's (1997) own data shows a correlation Myth 4: Ability Tests for El Meet
of -.85 between the EQ-i and the Derogatis (1973) Criteria for a Cognitive Intelligence
Symptom Checklist-90, and Newsome, Day, and
Catano (2000) found that EQ-i was correlated at -.77 A commonly held belief is that El meets the criteria
with trait anxiety. A recent study by Dawda and Hart required for a traditional, cognitive intelligence test.
(2000) revealed average correlations approaching .50 Proponents of El claim that available data support the
between measures of the Big Five personality factors notion that El meets conceptual, psychometric, and de-
(i.e., neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeable- velopmental criteria needed before El can be consid-
ness, and conscientiousness) and Bar-On's EQ-i mea- ered to constitute a legitimate scientific domain and
sure. Petrides and Eumham (2001) obtained similar thus a legitimate form of intelhgence (Mayer &
results; in their study, the multiple correlation for EQ-i Salovey, 1997; Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 1999;
predicted from all five factors was .84 (K. Petrides, Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2001).
personal communication, July 2, 2001). The most important criterion is that the intelligence
These data suggest that the EQ-i is little more than a in question is capable of being operationalized as a set
proxy measure of a composite of Big Five personahty of abilities (in this case, emotion-related abilities) that
constructs, weighted most strongly toward low have clearly defined performance components. Thus,
neuroticism. As previously discussed, two studies BI should be capable of refiecting cognitive perfor-
(Ciarrochi et al., 2002; Saklofske et al., 2003) suggest mance rather than nonintellective attainments or pre-
discriminant validity for the SSRI with respect to per- ferred ways of behaving (Mayer et al., 1999). It must
sonality measures, but the same incremental validity in therefore be possible to categorize answers to stimuli
prediction could probably be achieved by use of estab- assessing various facets of feelings as correct or incor-
lished midlevel or primary traits such as self-esteem, rect (Mayer & Salovey, 1997).
optimism-pessimism, or empathy. Petrides and As a rule, intelHgence test items are based on some
Fumham (2001) supposed that self-report El consti- formal, rule-bound system that indicates unequivo-
tutes a lower order primary personality trait placed one cally whether an answer is correct. Various formal sys-
level below the Big Five in a multistratum model, but tems are used depending on item content, such as
its distinctiveness from other, related primary traits is mathematics (numerical tests), logic (reasoning tests),
unclear. geometry (spatial tests), and the semantics of language
There is still a further problem with self-report mea- (verbal tests). There is generally a clear rationale for
sures of El that can constitute a definitive criticism to justifying the correctness of an answer, and it is rare for
the claim that they are assessing anything in common well-informed people to dispute the correct answer to
with general intelligence. A recent Dutch study evalu- an item. By contrast, the emotionally intelligent re-
ated the relation between Bar-On's EQ-i and the Gen- sponse to a real-life problem is often unclear or de-
eral Adult Mental Ability scale, a measure of fluid pends on the exact circumstances. Thus, the question

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MATTHEWS, ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

remains as to how to score an emotional ability test tween expert and consensus scoring of the MSCEIT,
item as being emotionally intelligent. correcting the poor convergence of these forms of
Performance-based measures of El employ three scoring reported for the MEIS (Roberts et al., 2001).
methods of scoring that have been used previously, This finding is a significant advance in rehabihty, but
particularly in measuring creative, social, and practical it does not necessarily show validity because there are
intelligence: expert scoring, target judgment, and various interpretations of expert-consensus conver-
group consensus. However, all of these methods have gence. First, experts can make their judgments on the
problematic aspects for the instantiation of El. Thus, basis of general cultural behefs rather than special ex-
expert judgment occurs when an expert (or team of ex- pertise. Second, both expert and consensus beliefs
perts) decides the best answer to each question. How- could refiect conformity and goodness of fit rather than
ever, no criteria exist for deciding who is an expert in ability per se (Zeidner et al., 2001). The person who
the domain of the emotions. To choose the expert ac- shares the consensual cultural beliefs about emotion is
cording to the El test scores (of which experts judge the likely to fit in better with society than the person whose
tests) is also less than satisfactory as the designation of beliefs are atypical. Experts could indeed rate the be-
high El because it is circular. The target scoring liefs and behaviors that are normative for Western cul-
method, on the other hand, involves the creator of the ture as being more "intelligent" than those that are
stimuli determining the correct answer. Problems with more deviant. However, because it is the match be-
this method are in the target not being able to accu- tween person and cultural environment that is critical,
rately express the emotion that they are feeling or per- conformity with cultural values should not be seen as
haps becoming prosocial when making their reports. an intelligence.
The third method, consensus scoring, allocates a There are further criteria for deciding whether a
score to each option according to the percentage of construct conforms to standards for an intelligence
people choosing that option. This method effectively (Mayer et al., 1999). In general, studies of the MEIS
scores an option as indexing greater or lesser levels of and MSCEIT do meet criteria corresponding to con-
El rather than scoring simply as right or wrong. Con- vergent and divergent vahdity. Mayer et al. (1999)
sensus scoring sui generis excludes identification of showed that the MEIS correlated with verbal intelli-
difficult items on which, say, only the 10% most able gence, although the test used (the Army Alpha) is sel-
individuals pick the correct answer, and the consensus dom employed in contemporary investigations of
answer is incorrect. Thus, consensus scoring is likely cognitive ability. Roberts et al. (2001) confirmed, in a
to lead to special problems at the top end of the scale, large-scale study, involving U.S. Air Force recruits
especially in distinguishing the "emotional genius" given the MEIS and the Armed Services Vocational
from the normally functioning, emotionally competent Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), that there are moderate
person. If a test item asks about an especially difficult correlations between general intelligence and all four
emotional encounter, by definition, only a relatively branches of EL By contrast, Ciarrochi et al. (2000)
small percentage of exceptionally gifted persons will found near zero correlations between general El
answer correctly, meaning that the consensual answer (measured by total MEIS scores) and the Ravens
will certainly be incorrect. Statistically, consensually Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM), in a rela-
scored tests tend to have high levels of kurtosis and tively small sample. The MEIS can relate more to
negative skew, and thus statistical analysis assuming crystallized intelligence (measured by the ASVAB)
multivariate normality cannot be validly apphed to than to fiuid intelligence, measured by the Ravens
them, although use of the MRA technique can address Standard Progressive Matrices. The MEIS and
some of these issues (MacCann et al., 2004). Another MSCEIT also show good divergent validity from per-
difficulty with consensus scoring, prevalent in perfor- sonality measures. Correlations with high agreeable-
mance-based measures of El, is that people are living ness, low neuroticism, and high conscientiousness are
in increasingly multicultural societies with a variety of those most frequently reported (e.g.. Lopes et al.,
social norms, so normative values to be applied vary 2003; Roberts et al, 2001), but correlation magni-
from setting to setting. Consequently, the MEIS and tudes are typically less than .3.
MSCEIT can be more effective in screening for "emo- Mayer et al. (1999) also described a developmental
tional stupidity" rather than discriminating levels of El criterion for El to qualify as a form of intelligence that
at the upper end of the range. Reliabilities for this scor- scores should increase with age. They reported that dif-
ing method have differed dramatically for different ferences in mean El scores observed for adolescents
studies (Matthews, Zeidner et al., 2002). Thus, the and adults serve as evidence supporting the develop-
veridical criterion against which responses can be mental criterion. Note, however, that this study was
scored as correct or incorrect, needed for defining in- based on a cross-sectional design and thus allowed in-
telligence, has not yet been satisfied by El. terpretation only in terms of age group differ-
Empirically, Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, and ences—not developmental—differences. However,
Sitarenios (2003) found a high level of agreement be- contrary, to what has been claimed by El researchers, it

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TARGET ARTICLE: SEVEN MYTHS

is a misconception that intelligence increases develop- practical application. The rather limited predictive va-
mentally. Studies of cognitive aging show that some lidity of current measures of El is mirrored by a lack of
classes of broad cognitive abilities (e.g., Gf; Fluid evidence that the construct is linked to distinct sets of
Intelligence) decline (see e.g., Carroll, 1993; Horn & processes and adaptive outcomes (Matthews & Zeidner,
Hofer, 1992), whereas others (e.g., Gc; Crystallized 2000). However, two myths are pervasive in the litera-
Intelligence) improve. Following this logic, it is plau- ture. The first, addressed in this section, is the belief that
sible to suggest that different components of El could El rank orders persons in terms of emotional processing
have different developmental trajectories and that each just as IQ rank orders persons in terms of cognitive pro-
could be examined in a carefully designed cross-se- cessing. The second myth, addressed in the next section,
quential longitudinal study (see Schaie, 2001). In any is that the emotional processing characteristics of the
event, the developmental criterion espoused by Mayer high El person confer some generalized advantage in
et al. is in need of reformulation. social functioning that generalizes across many situa-
In sum, although the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso tions and contexts.
group have made significant progress in developing a The majority of researchers in the area of El assert
psychometrically acceptable test, it is premature to the presence of both rational and emotional minds (cf.
conclude that it meets traditional criteria for an intel- Epstein, 1998; Izard, 2001). These commentators ar-
ligence test. Although their most recent test, the gue that there exists a dichotomy between emotional
MSCEIT, shows good scoring reliability across dif- and rational systems, with nonrational phenomenon,
ferent methods, it is still uncertain whether the latent such as emotions, supporting a competency distinct
construct is truly an intelligence. A related issue is from reason and intellect. Hence, just as conventional
that the construct still cannot be located within a hier- intelligence (IQ) is the general factor for individual
archical, multistratum model of the kind developed differences in the rational system. El is the general fac-
for conventional ability (Carroll, 1993) and personal- tor for the emotional system. Similarly, Goleman
ity (Costa & McCrae, 1992) factors. A satisfactory (1995) suggested an antagonism between passion and
account of El would (a) locate El as a higher-order reason such that the higher reasoning faculties sup-
construct defined by lower-level primary abilities, ported by the cerebral cortex can be hijacked by more
and (b) describe how the structure of El aligns with primitive subcortical brain systems. Goleman further
ability and personality constructs. Currently, the sam- proposed that emotion and cognition can also operate
pling of El constructs is too limited to support a synergistically in decision making. According to
multistratum model. The apparent general factor can Bechara, Tranel, and Damasio (2000), damage to fron-
simply be a localized cluster of constructs related to a tal cortex areas associated with emotion also impairs
primary ability factor (Davies, Stankov, & Roberts, the ability to make good life decisions, implying that
1998), or even to an emotional conformity factor out- emotion is essential to rationality. If cognitive and
side the ability domain. emotion systems are discordant, emotions can be a de-
structive force overriding sound judgment; if the two
systems are in harmony, being in touch with our emo-
Myth 5: El Relates to Emotion as IQ tional side facilitates practical decision making.
Relates to Cognition We take issue with this two-systems approach on
both theoretical and empirical grounds. In making a
In this section and the next, we turn to theoretical is- distinction between cognitive and emotional process-
sues. As previously noted, a good theory requires both a ing systems, several problems arise. Much of the ar-
description of individual differences in processing com- gument for a separate emotional system is based on a
ponents supporting El, as well as an account of the adap- misconception of cognitive models (Lazarus, 1991).
tive significance of these individual differences. Thus, Proponents of the two-systems approach (e.g.,
for a performance-based test of El (such as the Zajonc, 1984) have criticized cognitive theories of
MSCEIT) to rank order individuals on some continuum emotion (e.g., Lazarus, 1991) because they treat emo-
of emotional adaptiveness, two logically distinct steps tion as cold, rational, and bloodless. Goleman (1995)
in construct validation are necessary. First, the score drew a parallel with the Star Trek characters of Spock
must be linked to individual differences in processing. and Data, who are condemned to puzzle over human
These differences can variously refer to basic parame- emotions intellectually without ever experiencing
ters of cognitive architecture, to learned skills for the them. However, it is a fallacy to suppose that cogni-
processing of information, or to the availability of dis- tion is necessarily conscious and deliberative. In an
crete items of culture-bound knowledge. Second, it important commentary, Clore and Ortony (2000)
must be shown that the processing characteristics of pointed out that unconscious processing typically fol-
high El do actually confer some actual advantage in real lows the same computational principles as conscious
world emotional encounters. This outcome is requisite processing. Furthermore, both conscious and uncon-
for the test to have demonstrable predictive validity and scious processing can be associative rather than de-

187
MATTHEWS, ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

liberative, in that processing can operate through fast frustration. Intelligence in dealing with such situations
retrieval from memory of schematic information as- would be distributed across affect, cognition, and mo-
sociated with the stimulus. In either case, processing tivation. Emotional and cognitive maladaption are also
is controlled by the extraction of personal meaning closely linked at the clinical level. Goleman (1995) at-
from stimuli, a cognitive operation. If, as Lazarus tributed panic attacks to "emotional hijacking," such
(1991) suggested, analysis personal meaning controls that the emotional limbic system usurps control from
emotion, we cannot fractionate cognition from emo- the cognitive cortex. In fact, panic attacks have a pro-
tion as separate systems. Doubtless there are various, nounced cognitive element; often panic is caused by
qualitatively distinct processing modules that contrib- misattribution of somatic symptoms, such as interpret-
ute to extraction of meaning and generating of emo- ing increased heart rate as a sign of imminent cardiac
tion (Scherer, 2001), but there is no basis for describ- arrest (Clark, 1997).
ing some modules as cognitive and some as Thus, both emotion and self-referent cognition can
noncognitive. be expressions of a common self-regulative function,
Similar difficulties apply to the view that there are albeit a function supported by multiple processing
separate brain systems for cognition and emotion (e.g., modules. EI, if it exists, could then be a quality of this
Bechara et al., 2000), such that the competence of emo- broader executive system, influencing both emotion
tional response, and hence EI, can be directly attrib- and cognition (and motivation).We have rejected the
uted to specific brain systems (particularly the picture of a nonrational passionate brain pitted against
amygdala and areas of frontal cortex). First, purely a rational brain for control of behavior, but cognitive
neurological accounts of emotion neglect the distinc- neuroscience studies of emotion will likely play an es-
tion between "hardware" and "software" levels of ex- sential role in mapping the cognitive architecture that
planation (Matthews, t997) and are unlikely to lead to supports self-regulation. By contrast, models drawn
understanding individual differences in EL However, directly from animal research will likely prove to be in-
the use of connectionist, "neural net" models and other adequate. If the functional role of the self-regulative
cognitive neuroscience approaches is highly promis- executive is to interrupt the fixed, innate patterns of re-
ing. Second, the link between emotion and behavior in sponse characteristic of animal emotion (Panksepp,
humans is loose. There is no simple isomorphism be- 1998), then emotional self-regulation could be a
tween emotion and response: Studies of emotion and uniquely human quality. As we discuss further in the
information-processing demonstrate the finely tuned next section, it is unclear that individual differences in
cognitive control of behavior (Matthews, Zeidner et self-regulation can be reduced to a single dimension of
al., 2002). Third, biological accounts tend to neglect efficacy. However, investigating such self-regulative
cognitive control of outputs from the brain systems processes will be informative, whereas basing theory
identified with emotion. No doubt, lower level brain on an artificial separation between emotion and cogni-
systems such as the amygdala provide signals that are tion is unlikely to be productive.
coded symbolically and processed by higher level, lan-
guage-based cognition, but, equally the outputs of cog-
nition feed downwards to influence lower level Myth 6: EI Predicts Adaptive Coping
emotional functioning (e.g.. Rolls, 1999).
The separation of emotion and cognition is also In the previous section, we examined process-
challenged by various lines of empirical research: ing-level concomitants of EI. Here, we address adap-
Emotion is intimately related to appraisal (Scherer, tive issues. Proponents of EI claim that successful
200t), to perceptions of control and ability to cope coping with stressful encounters is central to the con-
(Lazarus, 1991) and to discrepancies between actual struct (Bar-On, 2000; Goleman, 1995), and the EQ-i
and preferred self-status (Carver & Scheier, 1998). Re- relates to self-reported preference for use of task-fo-
cent studies of self-regulation in challenging perfor- cused rather than emotion-focused strategies (Bar-On,
mance environments show that change in affect is 1997). Unfortunately, as argued by Matthews and
closely linked to change in cognition and motivation. Zeidner (2000), there does not appear to be a single EI
Matthews, Campbell et al. (2002) identified from process that controls adaptive success, analogous to
psychometric and experimental evidence a distress the speed of processing factor that is sometimes (con-
state syndrome that binds together negative mood and troversially) said to control general intelligence. Suc-
cognitions of low confidence and lack of control. cess or failure in coping has many sources, related to
Much of the variance in these cognitive-affective-mo- qualitatively different mental processes and structures.
tivational state changes is predictable from measures Consequently, it is unlikely that EI resides exclusively
of situational appraisal and coping (Matthews, in any single psychological mechanism.
Derryberry, & Siegle, 2000). In social settings, anger, Emotional competence has been linked to adaptation
hostile appraisal of others, and confrontational action in line with Darwin' s view of emotions as adaptive func-
tendencies can be simultaneously produced by goal tions. However, advancing from a characteristic adap-

188
TARGET ARTICLE: SEVEN MYTHS

tive function at the species level to account for individ- nal cognitions. It is unclear from the work of Mayer
ual differences is by no means a straightforward step. and Salovey, for example, whether El is restricted to
Indeed, El may not map onto adaptation in any simple being a property of the former or whether El also em-
fashion. For example, it is difficult to categorize coping braces processes with a more indirect infiuence on
processes in terms of adaptive outcome (Matthews & emotion.
Zeidner, 2000; Zeidner & Saklofske, 1996). There is a Future research would greatly benefit from empiri-
weak tendency for problem-focused coping to be more cal research on the relation between El and coping in
effective than emotion-focused (or avoidance) coping general and between El and coping under various envi-
but the link between choice of coping and outcome is of- ronmental conditions. Furthermore, many of the medi-
ten weak, content dependent. Similarly, an adaptive ating factors purported to serve as causal links in the
analysis of personality traits linked to El suggests that El-coping relation (e.g., social support, emotion dis-
these traits are linked to patterns of costs and benefits closure, etc.), require empirical validation. In short,
(Matthews, 1999; Matthews, Zeidner et al., 2002). systematic examination of the purported causal role of
Thus, it seems that individual differences cohere around various mediating factors in the El-coping relation is
multiple, largely independent, adaptive choices. For ex- sorely needed.
ample, agreeableness could be Unked to choices be-
tween competitive or cooperative goals, and
extraversion-introversion could be linked to prefer- Myth 7: El is Critical for Real World
ences for levels of social challenge. The individual's Success
disposition will determine which social environments
will prove supportive of their efforts at adaptation and The critical nature of El in applied settings such as
which environments fail to provide opportunities for the educational and occupational psychology is frequently
individual to exercise their adaptive skills (Matthews, reported, both in the populist literature and in the mass
1999; Matthews, Zeidner et al., 2002). media. It is claimed, often on the basis of limited evi-
The problem with defining El in terms of adapta- dence, that El competencies are vital for the successful
tion is that emotional or interpersonal situations could negotiation of demands, constraints, and opportunities
be too broad and ill-defined to constitute a coherent necessary to succeed in such contexts. However, the
adaptive challenge. Individual differences in the ex- question remains as to whether the concept of El gives
tent to which emotions support or obstruct the pursuit those working within such fields new ways of dealing
of personal goals can vary across the different chal- with practical problems. It is equally feasible, how-
lenges of human life. Thus, someone adapted to han- ever, that the practical utility of El is redundant due to
dling a particular situation may not be equipped to its broad and often vague conceptualization. A fairly
manage other types of social demands. Strategies that small number of empirical studies have been con-
work in one context may fail in another, and, often, ducted both in the laboratory, using criteria related to
the strategy produces a complex mixture of outcomes wellbeing and problem behaviors, for example, and in
operating over different time scales (Zeidner & applied settings, such as the workplace.
Saklofske, 1996). Adaptive outcome is a multivariate
quantity that can only be reduced to a construct hav-
ing positive (or negative) valence at the cost of a El in the Workplace
gross oversimplification.
Moreover, there is no current model of El that en- In recent years the use of El measures has become
gages two critical aspects of stress reactions. First, common practice in many organizations in the West-
stress outcomes are often more qualitative than quanti- em world, due primarily to the realization that El skills
tative. Typically, encounters can provoke a pattern of appear a vital component of any organization's man-
costs and benefits rather than an unequivocally posi- agement philosophy (and subsequent success). It has
tive or negative outcome. Adaptation is a multifaceted been claimed that El validly predicts successful work-
construct that may be construed differently depending place behavior at a level exceeding that of intelligence
on the particular situation and the criteria used for as- (see Cooper & Sawaf, 1997; Goleman, 1998;
sessment of outcome. Second, there is no single master Hay group, 2000; Weisinger, 1998). In a Times article,
process for stress regulation, and, hence, for EL In- which helped popularize El, Gibbs (1995) wrote, "In
stead, the stress process is distributed across a diversity the corporate world ... IQ gets you hired but EQ gets
of functionally distinct cognitive processes (Matthews you promoted" (p. 59). However, there is no empirical
& Zeidner, 2000). These include both processes for data supporting a causal link between El and any of its
mood regulation, operating metacognitively on repre- supposed, positive effects.
sentations or codes for the person's appraisals of their Success and productivity in the workplace is
own mood, and wider appraisal and coping processes, claimed to be attributed to a number of facets. These
that may be directed toward external events and inter- include influencing one's ability to cope with environ-

189
MATTHEWS, ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

mental demands (Bar-On, 1997) and the communica- found that El (as assessed by the MSCEIT) was mod-
tion of ideas and intentions in interesting and assertive estly correlated with job performance (r = ,22)—as
ways that lead to comfortable occupational environ- assessed by supervisors' ratings of employees on items
ments (Goleman, 1998), Furthermore, it has been evaluating professional work duties. Interestingly, job
claimed that those high in El are particularly adept at performance correlated significantly with only two of
designing projects that involve infusing products with the four branches of this test: Perception (r = ,14) and
feelings and aesthetics (Mayer & Salovey, 1997), Understanding (r = ,30), This result is curious because
There is reason to be extremely skeptical of El prov- these higher order factors are the least cognitive of the
ing itself more useful than intelligence tests in the area of four-branch model of EL Nevertheless, when added to a
personnel selection. In a recent review, Dulewicz and regression equation using cognitive ability and the
Higgs (2000) noted that whereas the concept of El is Big-Five factor of Conscientiousness, as covariates, a
purportedly based on extensive research evidence, the general El score from the MSCEIT added 3% to the in-
organizational applications of El "tend to be based on cremental variance of the job performance criterion.
derivative arguments and largely anecdotal descrip- The publishers of the Bar-On test have asserted that
tions" (p, 341), Barrett at al.'s (2001) review concurred it is a better predictor of job success than IQ, referring
that much of the existing evidence bearing on the role of to a few (as yet unpublished) studies in support of this
El in occupational success is anecdotal, impressionistic, claim. For example, Bar-On (1997) cited a study con-
or collected by consulting companies and not published ducted on a sample of 81 chronically unemployed indi-
in the peer-reviewed literature. Whereas proprietary viduals. These individuals had unusually low EQ-i
data collected in organizational settings may be the sur- scores, with the lowest scores on Assertiveness, Real-
face of a rich and deep research tradition, it is neverthe- ity Testing, and Happiness, Similarly, Bar-On found
less of uncertain validity and inaccessible to independ- that individuals from the Young President's Organiza-
ent scrutiny. Indeed, many claims seeming, on face tion (i,e,, whose membership is dependent on individu-
value, to present supporting scientific evidence, fail to als reaching top leadership positions in expanding
do so (Mayer, Salovey, et al,, 1999), Equally frustrating, companies) obtained scores on the EQ-i (on virtually
much of the evidence presented in popular books or aca- all subscales) exceeding the average by significant
demic book chapters to support this edifice is based on amounts. According to Bar-On, this group's success
unpublished or in-house research. Further still, it ap- was dependent on an ability to be very independent and
pears proxy measures of El are often used in such stud- to assert their individuality while being able to with-
ies , These tend to focus on emotion-related affective and stand various stressors occurring within the job. The
motivational variables (e,g,, attributions, impulse con- direction of causality in each of these instances raises
trol, or emotional adjustment) rather than the compo- some concerns. In particular, low El scores among the
nents thought to underlie El, When a study is submitted unemployed are likely to be a consequence (rather than
for publication in a peer-review journal, although the a cause) of being chronically unemployed. Similarly,
process is imperfect, it does provide some quality con- those performing well in their job are likely to report
trol for the methods and results and conclusions high levels of emotional stability.
(Chemiss, 2001), Carefully controlled, large This argument notwithstanding, Bar-On (2000)
multivariate designs are clearly required, with due dili- reported that in a survey of nearly 100,000 employ-
gence paid to the selection of both the criteria and the ees in 36 countries, social responsibility surfaced as
variables with which El must be shown to have mean- one of the most important factors determining effec-
ingful incremental validity, tiveness at work. However, according to Barrett et
A recent review by Zeidner et al, (2004) failed to al, (2001), the latter study is little else but a typical
identify empirical studies that clearly demonstrate that name-catching exercise, whereby the authors claim
El meaningfully predicts job success above (and be- that social responsibility is important for success
yond) that predicted by abihty and personality measures and because their test supposedly measures social
(see Newsome et al,, 2000), For example, Slaski and responsibility, it is valid for predicting success,
Cartwright (2002) found that EQ-i score was very mod- Bar-On, however, did not cite any predictive or con-
estly related to performance (r = ,22) in a study of super- current studies in this chapter to support his claims.
market managers, but no attempt was made to control In the EQ-i Technical Manual, Bar-On (1997) as-
for the personality traits that are known to be con- serted that the data "indicate a strong connection be-
founded with the EQ-i, Furthermore, performance as as- tween EQ-i scores and job 'performance,' based on
sessed as from ratings of behaviors made by immediate a self-rating scale tapping a worker's sense of com-
line managers, ratings, which may have been biased by petence" (p, 140), This assertion is based on a study
the high EQ ratee possessing more likeable personality of 324 workers from the United States and Canada,
characteristics. In one of the first studies using an ability who performed the EQ-i and a (self-reported) Sense
measure, Janovics and Christiansen (2001), using an in- of Competence Questionnaire, The correlation be-
cidental sample of 176 undergraduates (70% women). tween the tests, although high (r = ,51), needs to be

190
TARGET ARTICLE: SEVEN MYTHS

qualified by the fact that both measures are based on ment, and multimodal programs (Topping, Holmes, &
self-reports, presumably having considerable over- Bremner, 2000). Current interest in emotional learning
lap with the Big Five personality constructs, espe- was largely spurred by Goleman (1995) and later rein-
cially neuroticism, which predicts low self-efficacy. forced by Elias et al.'s (1997) book Promoting Social
Notably, no objective measure of job performance and Emotional Learning. The Nueva School in
criteria, which could have elucidated the veracity of Hillsborough, California, was the first to start an emo-
this claim, was collected. tional literacy program, and New Haven, Connecticut,
was the first city to implement such a program in public
schools district-wide. Once established, the concept of
Educational and Social Settings El has proven itself a catalyst to the thinking and plan-
ning of educators and policy makers. Thus, well over
Educators have embraced El because the school set- 700 school districts across the United States have ex-
ting provides one of the most important contexts for pressed interest in implementing the emotional literacy
learning emotional competencies and skills. In turn, approach (Goleman, 1995). The Collaborative for So-
models of BI raise the possibility of using such emo- cial and Emotional Learning at the University of Illinois
tional skills as tools for tackling social problems such reported that more than 150 different emotional literacy
as violence, drug addiction, and social alienation. As programs are being used today by thousands of Ameri-
such, there is a rising consensus among educators and can schools. Programs seeking to inculcate emotional
psychologists that the emotional learning of children and social competencies go under a variety of names,
be given greater consideration (and even be promoted) such as life-skills training, self-science, education for
in schools (Elias et al., 1997). The interpersonal rela- care, social awareness, social problem solving, social
tionships that children establish with their teachers and competency, and resolving conflicts creatively.
peers in school influence fundamental social attitudes, Although it is plausible that school-based programs
beliefs, and values and influence contextual knowl- for El are beneficial, no convincing evidence (to date)
edge. Some commentators even believe El provides shows dramatic changes in adaptation. In part, this out-
the medium by which educational reform will finally come appears the result of methodological deficiencies
reach its full potential across all levels of schooling conducted in studies thus far (see Zeidner, Roberts, &
(e.g., Ormsbee, 2000). Matthews, 2002). Our review of the intervention litera-
A possible reason for the upsurge in interest in social ture suggests that there are relatively few programs
and emotional learning is the claim that emotional com- that fit the bill as El intervention programs. Indeed,
petencies are of prime importance for academic success. when examining programs touted as El intervention
Extending this argument, it has been claimed that programs, one is surprised and puzzled by how sparse
knowledge about ourselves and others—and the capac- the emotional content of these programs actually is.
ity to use this knowledge to solve problems adap- Often, in cases in which elements of El have appeared
ti vely—is an essential foundation for academic learning in the goal statement of the program, measures of the
(Cohen, 1999). Proponents of the El construct (in partic- key components of El were not used in the assessment
ular, see Aronson, 2000; Goleman, 1995) have made of mediator or outcome variables. Furthermore, among
strong assertions as to the predictive utility of El in the those emotional literacy programs that have been as-
academic contexts. Little evidence, however, is pro- sessed, most suffer from serious methodological fiaws
vided in support of such assertions nor has there been ev- (inadequate controls, threats to internal validity, poor
idence to suggest the demonstration "that emotional in- measures, assessment of short-term impact alone,
telligence (EQ) and academic intelligence are separate etc.). Although an increasing number of programs are
qualities, and that emotional intelligence is a better pre- being evaluated formally, many still have not been
dictor of success in school" (Aronson, 2000, p. 102). subjected to systematic empirical scrutiny. It has also
Thus, at present, such claims remain largely unsubstan- not been demonstrated that interventions focusing on
tiated. Teaching El in schools, according to Goleman the core constructs of El, such as emotional awareness,
(1995), remedies what he perceives as a social crisis and are more successful than those based on other princi-
the disintegration of civility. It is assumed that people ples, such as behavior modification.
can learn to become more emotionally intelligent One possible reason for this sad state of affairs is
through systematic training and education, so those low that most current programs were not designed initially
in El competencies can improve their abilities to better as El intervention programs, but for other purposes
recognize feelings, express, and regulate them. (social skills or anger control programs, health educa-
A broad spectrum of social and emotional learning tion, drug abuse prevention or delinquency prevention
programs, implemented mainly in the United States, de- programs). There is a plethora of programs seeking to
signed to teach socio-emotional competencies in the inculcate emotional and social competencies (life
school are now available, including social skills train- skills training, self-science, education for care, social
ing, cognitive-behavioral modification, self-manage- awareness, social problem solving, social competency.

191
MATTHEWS, ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

and resolving conflicts creatively) that predates the no- viduals in occupational, educational, and clinical fields
tion of EL Proponents of El intervention have vested of application.
these existing programs with a minimal dosage of El The benefits of El appear to reside mainly in raising
content and have enthusiastically emhraced them as awareness of emotional issues and motivating educa-
their own. At present, there is little research showing tors and managers to take emotional issues seriously.
whether programs touted as El interventions are actu- There is a growing reahzation that psychological pro-
ally effective in enhancing the kinds of skills included cesses considered to be purely cognitive or intellectual
in current models of EL Thus, putting aside claims that in fact depend on a synergy between cognition and
El skills can be cultivated and improved in the class- emotion, supported by various different modes of cog-
rooms, the contributions of the numerous existing pro- nition (Clore & Ortony, 2000; Zeidner & Matthews,
grams touted as El interventions are modest. Where 2000). Consequently, it is increasingly seen as legiti-
evaluation is possible, outcomes tend to be mixed or mate to develop programs for improving emotional
moderate (see Topping et al., 2000). skills in the classroom and workplace. Whether these
programs are actually fostering El competencies, vari-
ous useful skills are most likely learnt during participa-
tion in these programs (e.g., conflict management,
Conclusions taking perspective of others, verbal communication
skills, assertiveness training, etc.). Currently, El
There are major conceptual, psychometric, and ap- mostly serves a cheerleading function, helping to whip
plied problems and issues to be overcome before El up support for potentially useful (though seldom sub-
can be considered a genuine, scientifically validated stantiated) interventions focused on a heterogeneous
construct with real life practical significance. Whereas collection of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral
Goleman's (1995, 1998) vision has been widely dis- skills.
seminated, much of the empirical research in the area is The challenge for proponents of El is to investigate
more sober in its conclusions. Many of the central ten- whether the various existing lines of research can be tied
ets of the psychology of El are inadequately supported together inside an overarching model of El that adds
by empirical evidence and, in certain instances, exist- something new to current differential psychology. Al-
ing ability and personality research suggests that the ternatively, El may be no more than a vague umbrella
claims made are either false or highly overstated. We term for a variety of different abilities, personality traits,
have identified seven myths (i.e., pervasive beliefs and items of acquired knowledge that do not cohere psy-
about El that are not currently substantiated by evi- chologically or psychometrically. A science of El re-
dence). Table 2 summarizes the status of each myth, quires three pillars: reliable and valid measurement,
and the prospects for substantiating each proposition. process-based theory, and practical application
On the basis of our review, we evaluate the likelihood (Matthews, Zeidner et al., 2002). Pivotal to this enter-
of future research obtaining supportive evidence as prise would appear the development of reliable and
good (existing research suggests that future research valid tests of El that can be accurately placed within a
has a high probabihty of supporting the proposition), wider psychometric model of individual differences,
fair (informative research is possible, but its eventual encompassing both ability and personality. Such a
outcome is highly uncertain), and poor (existing re- model is necessary to show that tests of El measure some
search strongly mitigates against the proposition, and new quality distinct from existing dimensions of indi-
does not suggest productive new lines of research). vidual differences. Equally important is the develop-
Sometimes myths are entirely false, but sometimes ment of an explanatory model of El that specifies the
they contain a kernel of truth. In the case of El, there neural and cognitive processes underpinning the con-
are some grounds for optimism that ability-based tests struct and their adaptive significance. As with measure-
will in time prove to be reliable and valid, supporting ment, a theoretical account of El must differentiate the
real-world applications. The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso processing basis for emotional competence from those
team has made real progress in developing a reliable processes that are known to support existing personal-
scale with some predictive validity. However, in the ity, emotional, and intelligence dimensions. In addition,
authors' view, we are still in the dark about what the the value of practical applications directed explicitly at
scale really measures: a true ability, a set of acquired improving El hinges on a demonstration that they are
and primarily declarative skills, or culture-bound per- distinct from existing techniques that are more fully un-
son-environment fit. There are also significant concep- derstood. Although there are a number of misconcep-
tual, psychometric, and theoretical issues to be tions relating to the conceptualization, measurement,
resolved before ability tests may be said to meet the and applications of El, it is important not to quash poten-
Anastasi and Urbina (1997) criteria for psychometric tially informative research in its early stages. However,
adequacy. Thus, we are a long way from being able to the problems that have been demonstrated in this paper
use ability tests as aids for decision making about indi- highlight the need to take a skeptical line (in the sense of

192
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193
MATTHEWS, ROBERTS, ZEIDNER

questioning rather than dismissive) in future studies. It Cherniss, C. (2001). Emotional intelligence and organizational effec-
is to be hoped that recommendations made throughout tiveness. In C. Cherniss & D. Goleman (Eds.), The emotionally
intelligent workplace (pp. 3-12). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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tifically viable approach to studying individual differ- intelligence in adolescents. Personality & Individual Differ-
ences in components falling under the broad banner of ences, 3J, 1105-1119.
EL In any case, studies of El may be productive even if Ciarrochi, J. V., Chan, A. Y. C , & Caputi, P. (2000). A critical evalu-
the construct proves to be elusive; false beliefs may ation of the emotional intelligence construct. Personality and
Individual Differences, 28, 539-561.
stimulate valuable research (Navon, 1984). At a cultural
Ciarrochi, J. V., Chan, A., Caputi, P., & Roberts, R. D. (2001). Mea-
level, science benefits from both consensus and contro- suring emotional intelligence. In J. Ciarrochi, J. Forgas, & J. D.
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vanced by The Bell Curve (Hermstein & Murray, 1994) tiftc inquiry (pp. 25-45). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
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sue a more balanced report on intelligence (APA Public
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