Emotional Intelligence Home Page
Emotional Intelligence from the
of the Five-Factor Model of Personality
From Chapter 12 of Handbook of Emotional Intelligence, Edited by Reuven Bar-On and James D. A. Parker
Because this is an excellent chapter I have copied much of the text from it below. First I present brief excerpts, then I present more complete quotes. Unless otherwise indicated, everything is a direct quote.
Brief excerpts from the longer quotes below
The idea of emotional intelligence - originally denoting a domain of abilities specifically linked to the perception and utilization of emotions (Salovey & Mayer, 1989-90)-has proven to be immensely appealing to psychologists, journalists, and entrepreneurs. Indeed, many writers (Bar-On, 1997; Goleman, 1995) have been so pleased with the construct that they have broadened it to include desirable motivational, interpersonal, and intrapsychic attributes that resemble personality traits more than traditional abilities.
Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer are both the originators of the term emotional intelligence and are some of the most articulate critics of the construct... In their original article they argued boldly and creatively for broader notions of "intelligence"...Structurally, they claimed that emotional intelligence need not fit within the classic hierarchical models of intellect, that is, that the components of emotional intelligence "need not intercorrelate" and "may or may not correlate with other types of intelligence". The theoretical license they granted to the construct was promptly exploited by Goleman (1995) and others, who in effect argued that any beneficial noncognitive trait might be construed as emotional intelligence.
Personality Traits vs Intelligence
We know a good deal about the origins and development of personality traits. Traits from all five factors are strongly influenced by genes and are extraordinarily persistent in adulthood. This is likely to be unwelcome news to proponents of emotional intelligence, who have sometimes contrasted a supposed malleability of emotional intelligence with the relative fixity of traditional IQ. Goleman, for example, was quoted as saying that "people can change from being pessimists to being optimists in a matter of weeks" - a claim that most psychotherapists and personality psychologists would dispute.
One can be optimistic simply because one has a cheerful disposition (which requires no intelligence of any kind); or one may understand that one can create an optimistic assessment by deliberately calling to mind the chances of success or by summoning social support from others. This process of manipulating one's own emotional state requires a certain degree of psychological mindedness that Mayer and colleagues deem a form of intelligence.
p 263 The idea of emotional intelligence - originally denoting a domain of abilities specifically linked to the perception and utilization of emotions (Salovey & Mayer, 1989-90)-has proven to be immensely appealing to psychologists, journalists, and entrepreneurs. Indeed, many writers (Bar-On, 1997; Goleman, 1995) have been so pleased with the construct that they have broadened it to include desirable motivational, interpersonal, and intrapsychic attributes that resemble personality traits more than traditional abilities. An evaluation of the construct might well begin with this broader conception, because there is a huge body of research on personality traits on which to draw. Most of the traits identified as parts of emotional intelligence can be located within a comprehensive taxonomy of personality trait, the five-factor model (FFM) (Digman, 1990; McCrae & John, 1992). The specific traits that appear most relevant to the original ability conception appear to be related to one of the five factors: openness to experience (McCrae & Costa, 1997). In this chapter I attempt to describe the personality profile of the hypothetical emotionally intelligent person from the perspective of the FFM, and to draw some implications about the emotional intelligence construct from established knowledge about personality traits.
Mixed Models of EI
Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer are both the originators of the term emotional intelligence (Citation omitted) and are some of the most articulate critics of the construct (Citation omitted).
p 264 In their original article they argued boldly and creatively for broader notions of "intelligence," pointing to the adaptive values of flexible planning, social adroitness, and interpersonal considerateness. Structurally, they claimed that emotional intelligence need not fit within the classic hierarchical models of intellect, that is, that the components of emotional intelligence "need not intercorrelate" and "may or may not correlate with other types of intelligence". The theoretical license they granted to the construct was promptly exploited by Goleman (1995) and others, who in effect argued that any beneficial noncognitive trait might be construed as emotional intelligence. From this, the construct was inflated to include group or corporate emotional intelligence, manifested in organizational policies that boost morale (Hatfield, 1998-99). Emotional intelligence soon became a panacea, promising profitability, cleanliness and better immune responses (Hatfield, 1998-99; Toms, 1998-99). Mayer, Salovey, an Caruso (2000), apparently alarmed by some of the claims made on behalf of their construct, began to distinguish between ability models and mixed models of emotional intelligence. They focused their research on the development and validation of measures of emotional ability (Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 1999) and warned that models that mixed abilities with a variety of desirable traits and attitudes lacked internal consistency and were correspondingly difficult to evaluate.
Overlap is exactly what personality psychologists would expect. The NEO-PI-R was designed to assess important traits in the FFM, and the FFM is supposed to be a comprehensive classification of personality traits. If emotional intelligence consists of personality traits, then it should map onto the FFM.
Conversely, if features of emotional intelligence map onto the FFM, then they are presumably personality traits. That seems somewhat clearer in Bar-On's version of emotional intelligence, which was derived from a review of personality characteristics related of life success, than in Goleman's version, which was based more directly on the emotional ability conceptualization of Salovey and Mayer (1989-90). Although they differ somewhat in the specific facets involved, these conceptualizations suggest that emotional intelligence should be associated with low scores for neuroticism. and high scores for extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Mixed models of EI seem to combine the evaluatively positive poles of each of the five factors (Paulhus, Bruce, & Trapnell, 1995); presumably this is why they sound so appealing.
p 266 If emotional intelligence consists of a particular combination of familiar personality traits, then it is possible to say a great deal about it from decades of research on personality. First, we know that the component traits do not covary to form a unitary construct. People who are able to shake off anxiety may or may not be prone to monitoring their feelings and may or may show zeal and persistence: emotional stability (or low a low level of neuroticism), openness and conscientiousness are separate factors. A few individuals score low for neuroticism and high for openness and conscientiousness, and corporate managers might want to identify and select such people as employees. But in order to identify them they would need to use valid measures of neuroticism, openness and conscientiousness instead of relying on a single, global measure of emotional intelligence.
Second, we know a good deal about the origins and development of personality traits. Traits from all five factors are strongly influenced by genes (citation omitted) and are extraordinarily persistent in adulthood (Costa & McCrae, 1997). This is likely to be unwelcome news to proponents of emotional intelligence, who have sometimes contrasted a supposed malleability of emotional intelligence with the relative fixity of traditional IQ. Goleman, for example, was quoted as saying that "people can change from being pessimists to being optimists in a matter of weeks" (Toms, 1998-99)-a claim that most psychotherapists and personality psychologists would dispute. It is possible to change specific attitudes, behaviors, and institutional policies, but deep, pervasive, and lasting changes in personality are far more difficult (Costa & McCrae,1986). And because the effects of personality are pervasive and enduring, superficial changes in attitudes and behaviors may not solve problems for long. Employees who score high for neuroticism are probably going to find something to complain about mo matter how enlightened the management.
Third, we know about the developmental trajectory of personality traits. Although individual differences are strongly preserved over most of the adult life span, there are maturational trends that affect everyone. Between late adolescence and age thirty, neuroticism, extraversion, and openness decline, whereas agreeableness and conscientiousness increase (McCrae et al., 1999). After age thirty, changes are much slower but apparently continue in the same direction. The fact that neuroticism decreases while agreeableness and conscientiousness increase suggests that emotional intelligence should increase with age. On the other hand, extraversion and openness to experience decline with age, (citation omitted) suggesting a decrease in emotional intelligence. Perhaps the two trends cancel out, and one could say that there is no net relation of age to emotional intelligence. But surely it would be more informative to say, for example, that young adults are better than older adults at monitoring their feelings and being optimistic, but worse at persistence and stifling impulsiveness. This is a nice illustration of the value of preserving the distinction between different traits instead of combining them into a single, undifferentiated construct (citation omitted).
Finally, we know a good deal about how to assess personality traits, using both self-reports and observer ratings. If one wished to assess the features described in Table 2.1 it might make more sense to combine relevant scales on the NEO-PI-R or other established measures of the FFM (citation omitted) than to try to create measures of emotional intelligence from scratch. Certainly part of the process of validating any measure of EI would be to demonstrate that the new scale has incremental validity over that afforded by established measures of familiar constructs.
Ability model of EI
In their more recent work, Mayer and colleagues have focused on a narrower ability model of emotional intelligence. Just as individuals may show intelligence in their understanding and use of numbers or words or geometric shapes, so people may be more or less intelligent in dealing with emotions. Mayer and colleagues distinguish several conceptually related abilities including facility in identifying emotions, in understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, and in managing emotions in the self and others. The distinction between these abilities and personality traits is sometimes subtle, but it can be drawn. For example, one can be optimistic simply because one has a cheerful disposition (which requires no intelligence of any kind); or one may understand that one can create an optimistic assessment by deliberately calling to mind the chances of success or by summoning social support from others. This process of manipulating one's own emotional state requires a certain degree of psychological mindedness that Mayer and colleagues deem a form of intelligence.
From this perspective, the criteria by which measures of emotional intelligence should be evaluated shift radically and come to resemble those by which verbal or quantitative intelligence measures would evaluated. Mayer and colleagues have begun to develop a battery of tests (the Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS)) to assess to identify the mood portrayed by a piece of music, to analyze complex emotions into more basic components, to predict temporal sequences of emotional reactions, to choose effective strategies for influencing others' feelings, and so on. They showed that scores on such tests covary to define a general factor that is related, albeit modestly, to both verbal IQ and self-reported empathy. They also showed that adults score higher on average than adolescents, suggesting a developmental progression.
Openness to experience and intelligence
The peculiar status of emotional intelligence as a variable on the boundary between personality and cognition is shared in some respects by one of the five basic personality factors: openness to experience. It therefore seems worthwhile to consider in some detail research relating openness to both dispositions and abilities. At one level, the history of this research may offer some lessons for future research on emotional intelligence. At another level, it seems likely that many of the features attributed to emotional intelligence are substantively related to openness. If so, then measures of openness shoud be routinely included in studies of emotional intelligence in order to provide information on convergent, discriminant, and incremental validity.
Openness is manifested most directly in an intense interest in novelty, variety, and experience for its own sake: open people are imaginative, sensitive, flexible, curious, and independent, whereas closed people are down-to-earth, businesslike, and traditional. Although regarded by humanistic psychologists as a means to self-actualization, openness to experience is not an unmixed blessing. The emotional sensitivity that open men and women possess means that they feel distress as well as joy more keenly than others (McCrae & Costa, 1991). They are more prone to nightmares (citation omitted) and depression (Wolfenstein & Trull, 1997). In contrast to closed individuals who deny inner conflicts (citation omitted) and avoid noxious stimuli (citation omitted), open people are in some respects emotionally vulnerable.
The psychological literature is studded with constructs related to openness versus closedness, including authoritarianism, absorption, thin boundaries, and need for closure. During the 1980s it became clear that all these constructs were aligned with the fifth lexical factor --culture or intellect-- that defined an exceptionally broad but robust personality factor.
The term intellect has sometimes been used to designate the openness factor because the English language contains a wealth of trait-descriptive adjectives designating aspects of intellect, such as intelligent, perceptive, analytical, and introspective, but relatively few describing aesthetic sensitivity, need for variety, or breadth of interests. Researchers who began from a consideration of natural language trait terms are thus led to the conclusion that intellect, or even intelligence, is a major personality factor. Under this interpretation, other traits related to openness might be seen as correlates or consequences of cognitive ability. For example, when explaining what they meant by intelligence, laypersons pointed to such characteristics as "keeps an open mind," "tries new things," and "displays curiosity".
The problem with this conclusion is that measures of self-reported (or observer rated) intellect correlate quite modestly (.20 to .30) with psychometric tests of mental ability. Instead, they are more strongly related to other personality characteristics, such as sensation seeking, Jungian intuition, and global measures of openness. Self-perceptions of intelligence are thus more a matter of personality than of IQ.
Other researchers have proposed that openness may be related to intelligence in ways that are not tapped by IQ tests. Ability tests assess maximal performance, what the individual is capable of when highly motivated. But in everyday circumstances people may choose to use more or less of this capacity; the tendency to use it often, to apply one's intellect to the world, has been called typical intellectual engagement. As assessed by self-report, this tendency is strongly correlated with NEO-PI-R openness (.65).
A related construct is the need for cognition, which is the "tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activity". Beginning in 1997, participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) completed the short form of a Need for Cognition measure. (The BLSA is an interdisciplinary study of men and women that has gathered biomedical and psychosocial data from adults for more than forty years.) At some time within the past ten years, most of the participants had also completed the NEO-PI-R (mean interest interval was 3.5 years), and about half of them had been given the WAIS-R vocabulary subtest (Matarazzo, 1972). Table 12.2 reports correlations of the Need for Cognition test and the WAIS-R vocabulary subtest with NEO-PI-R factors and openness facets. The first column of the table shows that Need for Cognition scores are related chiefly to levels of openness to experience, and secondarily to levels of conscientiousness. Regarding the openness facet scales, correlation is highest with the ideas-facet -indeed, given the long retest interval and the less-than-perfect reliability of the two measures, these constructs appear to be virtually identical. But need for Cognition scores are also significantly related to each of the other engagement.
Perhaps most important from an interpretive point of view is the fact that cognition along cannot account for the emergence of an openness factor.
These data suggest that the preference for intellectual activity and intellectual ability itself are correlates rather than sufficient causes of openness.
Verbal intelligence may be a correlate of openness because intelligence facilitates the processing of experience, or conversely, because inquisitive people tend to develop larger vocabularies. But openness has also been associated with other cognitive or quasi-cognitive variables, including moral reasoning, cognitive complexity and wisdom. Of particular interest are studies showing that openness is related to divergent thinking abilities as well as lifetime creative achievement. All these findings lend plausibility to the hypothesis that openness may be especially relevant to emotional intelligence, whether construed as an ability or as a disposition.
Openness and EI
One of the lessons to be drawn from the history of research on openness is that this dimension of personality is broader than mere intellect. A focus on its nonintellective aspects shows a close resemblance to some elements of emotional intelligence. Certainly the most directly relevant facet of openness is feelings, which is defined as "receptivity to one's own inner feelings and emotions and the evaluation of emotion as an important part of life" (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Mayer and colleagues (2000) assert that emotionally intelligent people are empathic, and one of the NEO-PI-R feelings subtest items states "I find it easy to empathize with others -to feel myself what others are feeling. "Gardner's (1983) intrapersonal intelligence (a concept closely related to emotional intelligence) "allows one to detect and to symbolize complex and highly differentiated sets of feelings", and respondents who scored high in openness to feeling claim that they "experience a wide range of emotions or feelings." Aeshteics is another facet of openness in the NEO-PI-R, and Salovey and Mayer (1989-90) noted that "aesthetic appreciation may involve special qualities of emotional perception and awareness".
Because there are no well-established measures of emotional intelligence, there is no clear empirical evidence regarding these hypothesized links; but data with existing instruments is at least partially supportive. Davies and colleagues (1998) found that NEO-PI-R openness scores were unrelated to performance on a facial emotion recognition task but were strongly related (.57) to the Trait MetaMood Scale, a measure of emotional attention, repair, and clarity. Schutte and colleagues (1998) reported a substantial correlation between their self-report measure of emotional intelligence and openness (.54). However, two unpublished studies, among adolescents and university students, found little association between openness and the scales of the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (personal communication, R. Bar-On, July 12, 1999). Instead, emotional intelligence as measured by this instrument was related to extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and low levels of neuroticism, as analyses of the mixed model of emotional intelligence had predicted. To date, there has been no study relating openness to experience to a full battery of tests of emotional intelligence abilities. If past attempts to relate openness to other abilities are any guide, then such studies are likely to find significant but small correlations. If so, then instead of debating whether emotional intelligence is a disposition or an ability, it may be wiser to say that the processing emotional experience involves both specific abilities and particular personality traits. Either of these, or perhaps a combination of the two, may best predict the real life outcomes -self-regulation, effective management, flexible planning- for which emotional intelligence has been promoted.
The concept of emotional intelligence as a set of abilities in dealing with emotions in self and others clearly merits continued attention. Current batteries of tests are promising; further development of such tools will facilitate research on the relations between emotional abilities and personality traits, especially openness.
Prospects for the effective use of the mixed model of emotional intelligence are more dubious. It is unlikely that any psychological characteristic will be advantageous in every circumstance. Sympathy befits a grief counselor more than a prosecuting attorney, and if ignorance is bliss, then emotional stupidity must sometimes be a blessing. It is doubtless true that educators, politicians, and managers should recognize that individuals differ in more than verbal and spatial ability, but instead of adopting and undifferentiated construct operationalized by untested measures, they might be wiser to focus on the well-known dimensions of the five-factor model.
Appendix to my notes
According to McCrae and others the five parts of the "Five factor model" are Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.
Conceptual Correspondences between NEO-PI-R facets and proposed aspects of emotional intelligence.
(R) means reverse correlation to the NEO-PI-R
|Costa and McCrae (1992)
|Ability to shake off anxiety (R)
|N2: Angry hostility
|Impulse control (R)
|Stress Tolerance (R)
|E5: Excitement seeking
|E6: Positive emotions
|Openness to experience
|Attunement to what others need or want
|Interacting Smoothly with others
|C4: Achievement striving
|Zeal and persistence
|Ability to motivate oneself