Emotional Intelligence (EI) describes an individual’s capacity to accurately perceive, assess, generate, understand, and reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2004). EI is called upon to understand expected behaviours, curb impulses, follow directions, express needs, ask for help, get along with others, and regulate self-confidence and motivation (Zins, 2004). However, there is a clear conceptual distinction between two types of EI: trait EI, which concerns personality traits, affect, and self-perceived capabilities, and ability EI, which refers to an individual’s ability to recognise, process, and utilise emotion-laden information (Joseph, Jin, Newman, & O’Boyle, 2015; Petrides, Frederickson, & Furnham, 2004).
A number of models have been developed to describe the concept of EI. Bar-On’s model of emotional-social intelligence for example is a trait-based model that encompasses intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, adaptability, and stress management components, emphasising personality characteristics with the potential to impact performance in professional or everyday domains (Bar-On, 2006; Neubauer & Freudenthaler, 2005). Conversely, Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso’s (2004) ability-based model of EI has four branches detailing perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions, with the branches ordered in a hierarchy representing the degree to which each ability is integrated within the rest of individual’s overall personality. The differences between trait and ability models of EI necessitate the use of different measurement approaches, with trait EI measured via self-report questionnaires and ability EI employing performance tests (Petrides, Frederickson, & Furnham, 2004).
Despite considerable support, it is important to note that there is some contention surrounding the definition, measurement, and validity of EI (Andrei, Siegling, Aloe, Baldaro, & Petrides, 2016; Newsome, Day, & Catano, 2000; Murphy, 2014). For example, meta-analytic results have illustrated that trait EI measures and ability EI measures are only moderately correlated (Joseph, Jin, Newman, & O’Boyle, 2015). Furthermore, trait EI has been criticised on the basis that it overlaps with higher order personality dimensions and thus has weak utility, and the validity of self-report EI measures has also been called into question (Andrei, Siegling, Aloe, Baldaro, & Petrides, 2016; Webb, Schwab, Weber, DelDonno, Kipman, Weiner, & Killgore, 2013).
More domain-specific applications have also been investigated, with educational applications a significant focus. A number of findings have indicated that academic success is strongly associated with several dimensions of emotional intelligence (Parker, Creque, Barnhart, Harris, Majeski, Wood, Bond, Hogan, 2004; Libbrecht, Lievens, Carette, & Côté, 2014), while others have reported a more tempered impact (Perera & DiGiacomo, 2013; Newsome, Day, & Catano, 2000). While further research is required to determine whether EI is a trait, a learned ability, or some combination of the two, EI may offer new and insights and direction in terms of its educational applications owing to its involvement in a range of issues relevant to educational success (Pekrun & Linnenbrink-Garcia, 2014; Cherry, Fletcher, O’sullivan, & Dornan, 2014).
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