Some of the greatest moments in human history were fueled by emotional intelligence. When Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his dream, he chose language that would stir the hearts of his audience. “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation” to liberty, King thundered, “American has given the Negro people a bad check.” He promised that a land “sweltering with the heat of oppression” could be “transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice,” and envisioned a future in which “on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Since the 1995 publication of Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, emotional intelligence has been touted by leaders, policymakers, and educators as the solution to a wide range of social problems. If we can teach our children to manage emotions, the argument goes, we’ll have less bullying and more cooperation. If we can cultivate emotional intelligence among leaders and doctors, we’ll have more caring workplaces and more compassionate healthcare. As a result, emotional intelligence is now taught widely in secondary schools, business schools, and medical schools.
More than two decades have passed since psychologists Peter Salovey at Yale and John Mayer at the University of New Hampshire introduced the concept of emotional intelligence in 1990. Why has it taken us so long to develop a more nuanced view? After Daniel Goleman popularized the idea in 1995, many researchers—perhaps awestruck themselves by enthusiasm for the concept of emotional intelligence—proceeded to conduct studies that were fatally flawed. As University of Lausanne professor John Antonakis observed, “practice and voodoo science is running way ahead of rigorous research.”
One of the most persistent problems was the use of self-report measures, which asked employees to rate their own emotional abilities on items like “I can tell how people are feeling even if they never tell me” and “I am generally very good at calming someone down when he or she is upset.” Abilities cannot be accurately measured with self-reports. As emotion experts Sigal Barsade of Wharton and Donald Gibson of Fairfield University lament, “One might compare this approach to assessing mathematical skills by asking respondents, ‘How good are you at solving algebraic equations?’ rather than asking the person to actually solve an algebraic equation.”
Read the whole story: The Atlantic