Applications of EC


The concept of Emotional Intelligence and therefore Emotional Competence is applied in many areas. In fact, its widespread use before its full scientific development provoked the discontent of many scientists. In particular a number of measures are the subject of criticism because they have not undergone the full rigorous testing and validation process that aims to ensure they do actually measure what they are meant to measure. 


In the Workplace

One of the primary drivers of the initial excitement about EI was Goleman’s (1995) promise that it may be even more important than IQ in its ability to predict job performance. On the basis of research conducted since then, it seems clear that its role in the workplace has been exaggerated in popular literature.  

In an early analysis of the existing studies in this area, Van Rooy and Visvesvaran (2004) reported an association between EI and job performance. However this analysis did not make a distinction between trait and ability measures of EI.

Recently a more extensive analysis by Boyle and other researchers (2011) that included a larger number of studies on EI and job performance has investigated how different measurement methods of EI predict job performance. The results indicated that both trait and ability measures of EI were associated with job performance. The study suggested that the choice of EI method depends on the purposes of the project and the feasibility of administering the tests or surveys. More specifically it is proposed that ability measures are more suited to selection and hiring because their objective nature makes them less prone to faking and they are useful in giving detached feedback to candidates.  On the other hand trait measures are easier to administer as they tend to be pen and paper surveys and the items can also be altered relatively easily to focus on a particular work setting so may be better at assessing how people are actually behaving in their workplace.  
Other studies have suggested that high EI measured as a trait is associated with lower levels of stress at work and higher levels of perceived job control, job satisfaction, and job commitment. Other research has indicated that high trait EI may be conducive to entrepreneurial behavior and that it may protect against burnout.

High EI also appears to correlate with better relationships in business settings. Research by Rosete and Ciarrochi (2005) indicated that managers higher in EI may be better at cultivating productive working relationships with others and demonstrate greater personal integrity. In a study by Rosete (2007) of over 100 public service managers, it was found that scores on the MSCEIT was associated with a supervisor’s appraisal of a manager’s effective business performance in terms of their strategic focus and ability to deliver intended results. Not surprisingly MSCEIT scores had an even greater association with an appraisal of a manager’s effective interpersonal behaviors in terms of communicating with others and mentoring people.

Many claims have been made about the link between EI and leadership but a study by Harms and Credé (2010) that examined existing research in this area suggests that, although there is a positive relationship between the two, the link is not as strong as previously maintained. Interestingly the research also indicates that trait EI has a stronger link to leadership than ability EI.

A somewhat more complex relationship between EI and other variables was found in a study by Coté and Miners (2006) which showed that employees with low cognitive intelligence exhibited better performance and citizenship behavior if they scored higher on the MSCEIT but not otherwise, whereas those with high cognitive intelligence showed no advantage of EI.

Perhaps more than any other topic, the links between EI and organizational performance requires more research based on theoretically driven hypotheses and comprehensive measures of the construct.


In Clinical Settings

Trait EI, as measured by the TEIQUE, has been shown to be a strong predictor of a range of variables related to mental and physical health and research has been carried out in this area.

Researchers have examined the possibility that very low trait EI levels may be related to personality disorders (PDs). A study by Mikolajczak and colleagues (2009) has also investigated the relationships between trait EI and self-harm in nearly 500 high-school students (around the age of 16 years). The results indicated that the lower the score on trait EI the more likely adolescents were to have self-harmed.

Higher EI does appear to promote better attention to physical and mental processes relevant to clinical outcomes. For example, a study in 2005 by Schneider and other researchers indicated people higher in some EI skills are more accurate in detecting variations in their own heartbeat—a physiological response that is related to emotions. Higher EI individuals are also more able to recognize and reason about the emotional consequences of events. For example, a study in 2007 by Dunn and other researchers showed people with higher levels of EI are more accurate in predicting how they will feel at some point in the future in response to an event, such as the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

If EI increases an individual’s attention to and accuracy about his or her feelings under various conditions, this could, in turn, minimize symptoms of poor mental and physical health. For example using a mental health checklist, researchers have indicated that the higher a person’s EI, the lower their reports of symptoms such as headaches and concentration problems.

Just as importantly, research by Hall (2009) has highlighted how valuable it is for clinicians to have high levels of EI in order to perceive the emotions of their patients accurately and react appropriately. This has been termed ‘interpersonal sensitivity’ and researchers have developed a method to measure this sensitivity. It is suggested that clinical practitioners could be tested on their possession of interpersonal sensitivity and it could form part of their training.


In Educational Settings

Trait EI appears to affect, directly or indirectly, a wide range of variables in educational contexts. For example, research has shown that high trait EI pupils tend to have fewer unauthorized absences and are less likely to have been expelled from school due to rule violations, in comparison to their low trait EI peers  A high score on trait EI also improves children’s relationships with peers at school and decreases the likelihood of aggressive and delinquent behavior.  

Research by Trentacosta and Fine (2010) has indicated that emotion knowledge or the capacity to understand emotion, which is proposed to be an integral part of EI, is associated with childhood and adolescent problems such as anxiety in social situations and depression but also aggression and hostility. It’s been suggested that programmes targeting emotion knowledge along with other aspects of EI, such as emotion regulation, could prevent behavior problems in children.


In Training

The research already described suggests that emotional intelligence is linked to a variety of useful characteristics and outcomes, ranging from good school behaviour to clinicians’ engagement with patients to high performance in one’s job. As such, it is of little surprise that researchers in various fields have begun to investigate whether it is possible to increase and improve emotional intelligence, which in turn will benefit various areas in life.

Training in the workplace - Due to the popularity of the concept of EI as a tool in the workplace, many forms of commercial training and coaching have been proposed to improve a person’s EI in an occupational setting. However there is little research and almost no scientific basis to most EI training for adults. As mentioned earlier in the section on Controversy, the question of whether an individual’s EI can be developed or is an inherited and enduring trait remains undecided. Some believe EI is amenable to development in later life but that most effective interventions would be during childhood. Others suggest that, although some core abilities are developed in childhood, these are malleable and the workplace is an environment that can have a particularly strong influence on EI.  

Research has indicated that training of middle managers in EI using a variety of techniques such as lectures, discussions, videos, exercises, dialogue, role play, diaries and one-to-one feedback over a month, does improve levels of EI as measured by personality or trait questionnaires and also mental health and morale . However it appears that training tends to improve only certain aspects of EI such as self-awareness, sensitivity and emotional resilience. Other aspects such as intuitiveness and conscientiousness, which could be considered aspects that are more inbuilt and less changeable, do not improve with training.

Training in educational settings - Students have been shown to benefit from training in EI, not only in terms of increasing their levels of EI but also by improving the likelihood that they will complete their first year of studies. A study by Nelis and colleagues (2009)  looking at a group of predominantly female students showed that training in EI did generate improved levels of EI, as measured by TEIQUE, but when more specific components of EI were examined the study found that emotion management and emotion perception were influenced by training but emotional understanding remained unchanged.

This supports the notion that there is scope to improve some but not all aspects of EI. The training was based on the four branches of EI proposed by Salovey and Mayer and involved lectures, workshops, role-plays, group discussions and diary work over a period of 4 weeks. Interesting the effect of the training was still present six months later.  

Studies with younger children and adolescents have also shown beneficial effects of EI training with improvements in well-being and academic performance and a decrease in depression and stress.

Training in specific components of EI - Some studies have assessed training that focuses on certain EC components, usually emotion recognition or knowledge. A summary by Blanch-Harrigan and other researchers (2012) of available research on effectiveness of training to improve people’s judgements of others’ emotions and intentions demonstrated that training can improve accuracy of judgements.

Interestingly it also indicated that the length of training was not important, but that the approach of the training approach did influence its success. Practice and feedback tended to be more effective than simple instruction, although a combination of all three was most effective. There was variation between different groups of trainees, for example more clinical groups such as those with autism, learning disabilities or schizophrenia benefitted more from training using instruction, perhaps because individuals have not yet developed the ability to perceive the emotions of others and so need to learn from scratch.

Going to an even more specialized level, researchers have looked at training people in the recognition of so-called micro-expressions. These are small facial movements that leak out when individuals attempt to inhibit or manage their facial expressions. Recognition of these is important in various clinical and security professions and it is proposed there is scope to train people in this area. The Micro Expression Training Tool (METT) has been developed to do just this and Hurley (2012) demonstrated that the tool is effective, especially if training is developed by a professional instructor. However it appears that the advantage provided by the training fades after about two weeks, suggesting that, in order for the METT to remain effective, booster courses will be required.

Taken together, these examples of evaluations of training suggest it is possible to train certain groups in EI or in specific aspects of EI. However the effectiveness of the training depends on many different variables such as the nature of the group itself, how the training is conducted and the opportunity to apply what has been learnt. Increasingly it is being recognised by researchers that training needs to be adapted to the individuals involved and the situation, for example some jobs or workplaces may demand different aspects of EI or may not require EI at all.