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Calling Normal and Conformity "Intelligence"
and Confusing Skills with "Intelligence"

Below you will see a quote from a July 2005 article co-authored by Peter Salovey, one of the leading academicians in the field of emotional intelligence. In a previous editorial I said that Jack Mayer, and his colleagues (Salovey and David Caruso) have started calling what is normal "intelligent." Here we see that a strong case could be made that they are also calling conformity "intelligence", and we see just how they do it.

On their test, which they, MHS and others call a test of emotional intelligence, (but which I do not believe is a test of EI), they say that the most common answer is the "correct" answer. Therefore, if someone answers the questions on their test "correctly", they are called emotionally intelligent.

In other words if they agree with the masses, or at least those in their "social group," they are emotionally intelligent. Of course, this also implies that the correct answers can change. What is the correct answer for one group of people may not be the correct answer for another. So answering that 2 plus 2 equals four may not always be the right answer. This kind of thinking is hard for me to take seriously as a real test of emotional intelligence.

I believe, instead, that there are some answers which are universally better than others, or more correct, when it comes to solving emotional problems, accurately identifying emotions and communicating emotions in the healthiest way for the human species. My definition of what is emotionally intelligent would not be dependent on a subset of humans. It would apply to every person in the world. (Definitions of EI)

In any case, here is the direct quote:

"Intrinsic to the four-branch model of emotional intelligence is the hypothesis that emotional skills cannot be separated from their social context. To use emotions in a useful way, one must be attuned to the social and cultural norms of the environment in which one interacts. Therefore, the model proposes that correct answers will depend highly upon agreement with others of one's own social group. " (Source)

This is one fundamental problem with the Mayer et al concept of EI. Another is their original view of EI. I recently re-read their 1990 paper and this jumped out at me:

This article presents a framework for emotional intelligence, a set of skills hypothesized to contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and in others, the effective regulation of emotion in self and others, and the use of feelings to motivate, plan and achieve in one's life.

I put the word skills in bold to draw attention to it. From this we see that the researchers started out by back in 1990 by confusing intelligence with skills. There is a big difference between intelligence and skill. A young child, even a baby, can be highly intelligent, but unskilled.

I still believe that there is something we can call "emotional intelligence", but I am afraid the leading researchers have led us (and Dan Goleman) in somewhat the wrong direction.

I urge other researchers to correct this with new work -- work which views emotional intelligence as an intelligence and not what is either:

(A) a "set of skills" which one might or might not acquire during one's life experiences or
(B) what is simply "normal".

S. Hein
Salta, Argentina
June 5, 2006

Updated June 15, 2011, Sydney

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