EQI.org Home | Problems with Mainstream Concept of Emotional Intelligence | Society

Motivation, Conformity, EI

Last night, around 10:30, someone invited me to go to their house. I've been there before - enough times to understand the environment. I like the person who invited me. I will call her "TSP". That stands for twenty-something prisoner. Sort of like "TP" for teen prisoner, but she is in her twenties. She can't leave the house without telling her wardens where she is going, who she is going with, when she will be back etc.

When we were out the other night one of her wardens kept calling her and sending her text messages saying she needed to get back to prison because the other warden was upset that she was away from prison for so long.

At first I was planning to go over to the prison... well, I will call it my friend's house, because she won't like me calling it a prison. It's not really her house either, though, because she doesn't make the rules, can't sell it etc. But in any case, she will get defensive if I call it a prison and she'll say that it's not so bad, and her wardens are just protecting her from such and such etc. And she won't like me to call them wardens. But I don't know what else to call them.

Do we call any male and female who have sex and create a child "parents", no matter what they do for the next 18 or so years? Maybe we could call people like those who created my friend "pardents", or "wardents" -- sort of a cross between wardens and parents.( I think I like wardents the best.)

Anyhow, so I was planning to go there around 11:00. But I was on the computer and trying to clean up my broken links. I was running a link checking program and it was taking a long time to get all the way through it.

It was getting cold outside and I was already feeling the cold inside where I was working. I didn't really want to go out in the cold that late at night. I was also getting sleepy. So what would motivate me or anyone to go outside on a cold night instead of staying inside and having some warm soup, reading and going to bed?

Where does motivation come from? Is there such a thing as "good" or "bad" motivation? Are people motivated by a mysterious force called "evil" as many people believe and teach?

In their 1990 paper Salovey and
Mayer talked about motivation as a part of emotional intelligence. But then in 1997 when they presented their four branch model of EI, they did not mention the term. They seem to have realized that motivation does not depend much, if at all, on someone's level of EI. I initially wrote "on someone's innate level of EI" but the two university professors don't see EI as being primarily innate potential. They see it as being more learned skills.

By the way, I call them "university professors" here because I don't feel comfortable calling them scientists anymore. I don't believe what they are doing now deserves to be called science. It is closer to what I would call science than the Goleman model of EI, but it still isn't good enough to satisfy me for reasons I have listed in other articles, such as the fact that their definition of EI depends on words which themselves are not clearly defined -- words like "ability" and "effective." Also, their definition of EI is too subjective. It depends on conformity to one's group, so what they would call emotionally intelligent in one group might not be emotionally intelligent in another group.

For example, if the majority of the people in one group say that terrorism is an effective way to express your feelings, does this mean it is emotionally intelligent to agree with them? And what if in another group the majority think that invading countries, bombing and killing people through traditional, commonly accepted warfare is an “effective” way to stop terrorism? Can we say that someone is emotionally intelligent if they agree with the majority in one group, but not in another and then call this science? This seems like saying 2+2 =4 in some parts of the world, but not in others and then calling this math.

Returning to the topic of motivation I believe that there probably is a connection between EI and motivation. I suspect, for example, that a more emotionally intelligent person is motivated by different things than a less emotionally intelligent person, everything else being equal. It is important to add “everything else being equal” because our motivation depends so much on what we are taught, rewarded by, punished for etc.

If we are raised to believe that making what are commonly called “good grades” is important, even vital, and we are rewarded when we achieve that goal and punished if we don’t, then it is likely most of us will be motivated to try to get those “good” grades.

Children are approval-seeking by nature. They need the approval and acceptance of the adults around them, especially the people who are feeding them. So they quickly learn to behave in ways that get them some minimal level of approval. What the adults around them approve of though, and reward and punish them for though, depends more on the adults and their needs, values, beliefs, etc. than it does on the child’s needs and what I will call instincts.

Let’s say a child is born who feels bad about the idea of killing people yet they are born into a country at constant war, or in constant preparation for war, such as Israel, and we might say the United States, England and many other countries since so many students are prepared to be soldiers in the future. And if they aren’t prepared specifically to be soldiers they are indoctrinated with the belief that they must be “patriotic” and defend their country etc. So in a way this is preparing them for war or at least to “support the troops” when there is a war.

That child, then, whose natural feelings are opposed to war will learn to not listen to his or her feelings and instead listen to the voices of authority. They may then later be motivated by things which they would not have been motivated by as a child or as an adolescent when they started to question the prevailing cultural norm of war or whatever is commonly accepted in their social group.

More specifically, a young person who might have been motivated instinctively by trying to prevent wars could turn into a 16 or 18 year old who is motivated by passing university entrance exams so they can later get what is allegedly a secure job in an office. They may then earn wages of which a certain percentage are taxed to fund the war effort which they were originally opposed to.

I would speculate, then, that a more emotionally intelligent person is likely to continue to follow their instinctive feelings, regardless of what is happening around them. I would speculate that a very highly emotionally intelligent person is more driven by their own inner feelings than by the voices of authority around them.

As yet I have not seen any of the university professors or business consultants saying something quite like this about emotional intelligence. If you know of anyone who is thinking along this line, please let me know because I often feel discouraged that I am the only one who thinks like this.

So back to my motivation last night. I decided I wasn’t going to go over to my friend’s house. I knew that if I went I would not be able to be myself, to show my true feelings. I would have to be fake with the parents and afraid of acting naturally with my friend. I wouldn’t be able to take my friends hand in mine while we talked, I wouldn’t be able to cry, I wouldn’t be able to ask for a hug if I needed one. And I would feel stress from knowing that she also would not be able to show her true feelings. True feelings are not allowed in many homes and intelligent, sensitive young people learn this quickly. I believe the more emotionally intelligent they are, the faster they learn it. When mother and father smile or frown, it is an emotional lesson for the child. And as someone once said children learn that “when mommy smiles, I am good, when she frowns I am bad.” In other words children internalize their parents approval and disapproval. They learn to believe that how their parents feel about them represents how they truly are. This is how a sensitive, intelligent person develops low self esteem in a disapproving home environment.

I believe that if a person is highly emotionally intelligent they won’t be motivated by the same things which motivate the common people around them. They won’t be motivated by the same things their parents are motivated by and they won’t be motivated by the same things their teachers and school directors are motivated by. Things like soccer, perhaps, or learning to shoot rifles. (links below).

In my case, what does it say about my emotional intelligence that I didn’t feel motivated to go out last night, to go over to a place where I could not be emotionally honest or feel safe and free, or even very helpful since I couldn’t have given my friend the emotional support she needs to feel safe to cry in front of someone?

I don’t know what it says about my emotional intelligence. Maybe it is a sign I have relatively EI, or maybe it is a sign I have low EI. As I read the recent work by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, and look at their test which they now seem to really believe is a test of emotional intelligence, I get the impression that they think my not going would be a sign of low EI because I am not able to be fake about my feelings.

They might say this I am lacking in the ability to “manage my emotions” and that a more emotionally intelligent person would have gone over last night and been all friendly with the parents who are treating their daughter as if she were their property or some kind of slave girl.

I am not so sure they would be right though. My instinct, or my heart or whatever you want to call it tells me they are missing something. And it is something important. Basically what I think they are missing is the difference between innate EI and learned emotional management skills or coping mechanisms. The BarOn test is more obviously a test of coping skills, given that it was refined for use in the Israeli military. It is a test which can predict who will be able to manage the stress and pain of obeying orders, killing people, etc. and be called “successful.” It turns out that these same kinds of people do well in sports and selling cosmetics or just about anything else. Thus the test has become popular in armies and businesses. But I wouldn’t call it a test of one’s emotional intelligence just because it can predict who will make “good” soldiers and salespeople.

It may also be that it can predict who will be “good” students. I’d say that the “skills” you need to be called “good” or “successful” in most schools, most armies or most businesses are very similar. And thus we understand the popularity of the current models of EI and of the current tests which supposedly are measuring it.

Steve Hein
June 19, 2006


Motivated by "evil"
EI and conformity article
Soccer article
Rifles in school article
Sports, Soldiers and EI article
Emotionally Intelligent Soldier page
Good Grades
Cosmetics - Women who wear make up make more money

EQI.org Home Page

Core Components of EQI.org

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Intelligence | Empathy
Emotional Abuse | Understanding
Emotional Literacy | Feeling Words
Respect | Parenting | Caring
Listening | Invalidation | Hugs
Depression |Education
Personal Growth

Search EQI.org | Support EQI.org

EQI.org Library and Bookstore

Online Consulting, Counseling Coaching from EQI.org