CogniFit's Science blog: The Intelligence Of Emotional Perception

The Intelligence Of Emotional Perception

When thinking of someone who is highly intelligent, one first takes into account the logical reasoning, math, problem solving or verbal skills, the capacity of our brain to produce something. That is the standard way to define intelligence, although the definition of “intelligence” remains controversial. The importance of cognition is valued the most.

Not surprisingly, tons of tests to determine each person’s intelligence level, or IQ, have been developed following the same structure. But there’s more to intelligence than the standard understanding. Yes, it is true that IQ is a high predictor of academic or professional success, and therefore it is by some reason that it is an important, while debatable, measure. However it’s not a complete one. Why? 

Intelligence isn’t just based on one domain. There are several types of intelligence, all of them contributing in some part to the success of each person. Some people might be weak in problem solving, but they are very developed in terms of spacial and visual intelligence, for instance. But one major area which is increasingly being given importance is the emotional intelligence. 

Everyone has emotional intelligence (EI), but some more than others. EI can be an ability to identify, assess and control emotions of oneself and in groups. This concept of EI was made popular very recently by authors such as Wayne Payne (1985) and Daniel Goleman (1995), although earlier works on studying the influence of non-intellective factors on the overall behavior. 

Empirically, it seems obvious that there’s more to success in life than IQ, however significant work in this area only started to be really done in the past decades. There are in fact three main models of EI: i) The Ability Model; ii) The Trait EI Model; iii) The Mixed Models of EI. 

In brief, the Ability Model views the emotions as sources of information, helping the individual to quickly understand and move in the social environment. These include four main abilities: the ability to detect and understand emotions in faces, pictures, voices, etc (perceiving emotions); the ability to use emotions to increase other cognitive abilities (using emotions); the ability to understand emotion language and its changes (understanding emotions); and the ability to control and regulate emotions, or ourselves and others (managing emotions). Some individuals have these abilities, some have them less developed. 

The Trait Model differs from the Ability Model, as it is more based on the self-perception and behavioral dispositions. That is, this model understands EI as a personality trait rather than an ability. 

The Mixed Models are focused on a wider range of skills to drive leadership within a group. These include the self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Those can be defined as the emotional competencies, which are in theory not innate, but learned over time. 

Whether Emotional Intelligence is part of each person’s personality or an ability we can learn is still debatable. However what seems to be true is that there is something beyond IQ and cognition which give our mind an edge while living in a society. Mastering the emotions is the key to a strong influence .