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This is a word I have been thinking about a lot lately. I recently saw the word used in an article by Jack Mayer. I have a lot of respect for Jack, but his use of the word "effective" troubles me. It reminded me of the editorial I wrote in which I said "gas chambers are effective."

I searched Google and found another article which points to the same concern I have.

Effective, but brutal...

New information concerning the last administration's role in mistreating terrorist suspects has surfaced, and so has our former VP. Cheney has slithered into the daylight again to inform us that torture was sanctioned by the U.S. "because it's effective."

That's really good, Dick! Yes, torture is an effective form of interrogation, AND:

-- Flying airliners into skyscrapers is an effective way to kill innocent civilians.

-- Gas chambers are effective for committing genocide.

-- Slavery is an effective form of cheap labor.

-- Rape is an effective tool for terrorizing women.

-- Cutting off hands is an effective way to keep people from stealing.

(Blog no longer found as of May 2011)

On Effective Regulation and Management of Emotions

Here are excerpts from my writing on August 22, 2000

The other day I went back to re-read the 1990 article on EI by Salovey and Mayer. The article starts with an abstract. There were a couple of things in the abstract which troubled me...First, here is a copy of the abstract:

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. We start by reviewing the debate about the adaptive vs. maladaptive qualities of emotions. We then explore the literature on intelligence, and especially social intelligence, to examine the place of emotion in traditional intelligence conceptions. A framework for integrating emotion-related skills is then described. Next, we review the components of emotional intelligence. To conclude the review, the role of emotional intelligence in mental health is discussed and avenues for further investigation are suggested.

The first word which concerned me was "effective." My question is: What do we mean by effective? Do we mean efficient? My thoughts were, "Hitler's army was efficient. Gas chambers are effective." Then I remembered reading David Caruso's article on EI in the workplace. I wondered again, do we want certain companies to be more "effective" and productive in their manufacture of unhealthy products? I think of cigarettes for example. Or of assault weapons? (2011 Note - Do we want terrorists to be more effective?)

So back to the question of "What do we mean by effective?" I truly don't know what the authors meant. To me it is simply a convenient, catch-all kind of word which most people don't question - much like the words "appropriate", "should," "moral", "spiritual", or "success". But in this case, since it is being used in an important new conceptual definition, I believe the word, and every word in their paper, word needs to be carefully reviewed.

The next thing that troubled me is the word "regulation." I don't like the sound of that word very much, either. It brings thoughts and feelings of rules and control and subordination to social norms. It is a word which Goleman uses a lot and I believe it reflects his conformity to the status quo, or perhaps his agreement with Freud and B.F. Skinner that humans generally need to be controlled by others or they will become like savage animals. (I sometimes refer to Goleman, in fact, as the "B.F. Skinner of emotions.")

While I share this belief to a small degree, and I agree we need a balance between control and freedom, I believe Goleman, Freud, and Skinner underestimate the potential for self-control and self-regulation. I believe that our feelings, when developed in a healthy way from childhood on, serve as guides to what is healthy for the individual and for the group or the species as a whole. In fact, I believe our innermost, undamaged feelings connect us to all living organisms, from the small helpless sea urchin that was washed upon the shore, to the mightiest trees in the California Redwood forest.

From what I can tell by the writing of John Mayer and Peter Salovey, they are less interested in conformity to social expectations and controlling the behavior of others and more interested in personal growth of the individual than is Daniel Goleman. So I do not direct my concerns primarily at Mayer and Salovey - my concerns are just aroused by their choice of words. (1)


Problem with words in a "construct"

Humans who call themselves "psychologists" seem to like to use the word "construct." (note about labels) Emotional intelligence, they say is a "construct." So this makes me wonder the following: What if I wanted a home built or "constructed," for me but the builders and I didn't have the same understanding of words like bricks, wood, windows? What if we didn't even have the same concept of a "big" house or a "small house" and we had no way to measure size so we could understand each other?

This I believe is much of what is happening with the definitions of emotional intelligence. In their various "constructions" of their definitions, they use words like "success" and "effectiveness." But what do these words mean exactly? To me this is some think like saying "I want a big house and I want it to be inexpensive."

This simply is not precise enough. Without better definitions and more clear understandings, we might not get what we want. We might get, instead, what the builders want us to have.

One Word, Many Meanings

Here is an example of how the word "effective" could mean many different things. This example is based on the kinds of questions used by one of the leading tests said to measure emotional intelligence. (MSCEIT)

Your 6 year old daughter starts to cry because her 16 year old brother doesn't want her tagging along when he goes out with his friends. As the parent, what is the most effective response?

A. Tell her to go to her room until she has stopped crying.

B. Tell your son to stop being so selfish and invite her along.

C. Invite her to help you in the kitchen. Tell her you could really use her help.

D. Tell her that her older brother really loves her but sometimes he needs to spend time with his friends.

So which one of these is the best answer? First, what do we mean by effective? Do we mean

1. Effective in getting her to stop crying?

2. Effective in teaching her how to manage her emotions?

3. Effective in building a loving, caring relationship between your son and daughter?

4. Effective in minimizing the time you need to spend trying to resolve the problem?

5. Effective in showing her you care about her feelings?

6. Effective in teaching her to not cry over things like this in the future or not to bother you with them?

7. Effective in validating her feelings?

8. Effective in changing your son's behavior so he doesn't make her cry again in the future?

from msceit4.htm

Not everything that is effective is...

Here is an interesting Google search

I found a lot of results saying 'not everything that is effective is good and not everything that is good is effective. I also found a lot with "not everything that is effective is complex" or variations of that, so then I tried this search

"not everything that is effective" -complex -good is effective

(I took out the last words because too many people said the same thing.)

It looked like there would be some interesting pages, but then I wondered if anyone had sad "not everything that is effective is good for humanity" or "good for society" so I searched "not everything that is effective is good for" and I found 0 results.

Also, > No results found for "not everything that is effective is healthy".

Also, > No results found for "not everything that is effective is intelligent".

S. Hein
Mar 8, 2011
Wanaka, New Zealand

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Anders Breivik

Could we call what Anders Breivik did "effective" in bringing attention to his beliefs and his cause?

David and I

As I have written about elsewhere, David Caruso and I used to correspond regularly until he started to not like what I was writing on my website with regard to Daniel Goleman. (Then later David disliked what I was writing about him and the Caruso family based on my visit to his house back in 2011, just after 911.)

Towards the end of our correspondene he once told me something like he thought I would be more "effective" if I didn't personally attack Dan Goleman and his family so much.

So I often think of David when I hear the word effective or see it being used.

And now I really wonder if David would say that the actions of Anders Breivik were "effective," and if so, how he feels about the word in light of what Anders did.

S. Hein
May 2, 2012
Ubon Ratchathanni, Thailand

I have added a link to this page from my page on my "framework" for a new society, culture.

S. Hein
Nov 7, 2013
La Paz,, Uruguay