Emotional Intelligence

The ability to perceive, regulate, and express one's own emotions as well as to recognize and respond empathetically to the emotions of others.

The four areas of emotional intelligence, as identified by Mayer and Salovey, are:


The brain and emotional learning

The amygdala, a structure in the limbic system, is the behavioral center of the brain. It is thought to be responsible for emotional learning and emotional memory. Studies have shown that damage to the amygdala can impair the ability to judge fear and other emotions in facial expressions (to “read” the emotions of others), a skill that is critical to effective social interaction. The amygdala serves as an emotional scrapbook that the brain refers to in interpreting and reacting to new experiences. It is also associated with emotional arousal.

The ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others is also regulated by the prefrontal cortex of the brain, sometimes called “the executive center.” This brain structure and its components store emotional memories that an individual draws on when interacting socially. Research studies have demonstrated that individuals with brain lesions in the prefrontal cortex area have difficulties in social interactions and problem-solving and tend to make poor choices, probably because they have lost the ability to access past experiences and emotions.

Measuring emotional intelligence

Mayer stated that intelligence is an ability and can be measured directly only by having people answer questions and then evaluating the correctness of those answers. As such, number of ability tests or assessments have been developed to measure emotional intelligence and they are used routinely in research, psychological evaluations, and pre-employment evaluations. The main measuring tools employed include:

Several other tests are available, including the Work Profile Questionnaire-emotional intelligence version (WPQ-ei), and other psychometric measures, or tests, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-R), a standard intelligence test used in measuring the social aptitude features of emotional intelligence.


The concept of emotional intelligence has found a number of different applications outside of psychological research and therapy. Professional, educational, and community institutions have integrated different aspects of the emotional intelligence philosophy into their organizations to promote more productive working relationships, better outcomes, and enhanced personal satisfaction.

Educators and youth counselors who work with children try to help them develop emotional selfawareness and the ability to recognize and positively act on feelings. Emphasis on emotional intelligence in the classroom also focuses on problem solving, conflict resolution, empathy, coping, and communication skills, and is frequently implemented in violence-prevention programs. Self-science, an educational curriculum developed in the 1970s by educator Karen Stone McCown and psychologist Hal Dillehunt, was an early forerunner of emotional intelligence. The program, which focused on developing social and emotional skills to nurture unique learning styles and life skills, is still in use today in the education setting.



Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam, 1995.

Mayer, J.D., and P. Salovey. “What Is Emotional Intelligence?” In Emotional Development, Emotional Literacy, and Emotional Intelligence: Implications for Educators, edited by P. Salovey and D. Sluyter. New York: Basic Books, 1997.


Brown, F. William, and Dan Moshavi. “Transformational leadership and emotional intelligence: Apotential pathway for an increased understanding of interpersonal influence.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 26 (Nov 2005) 867–871.

Fiori, M., and J. Antonakis. “The ability model of emotional intelligence. searching for valid measures.” Personality and Individual Differences. 50 (Mar 2011)329–334.

Mayer, J.D., et al. “Emotional intelligence as a standard intelligence.” Emotion 1 (Nov 2001) 232–242.


Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. History (Founders, John Mayer and Peter Salovey). updated May 2015. http://www.ei.yale.edu/who-we-are/history/ (accessed July 18, 2015).


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National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 6001 Executive Boulevard, Rm. 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD, 20892-9663, Fax: (301) 443-4279, (301) 443-4513, nimhinfo@nih.gov, http://www.nimh.nih.gov .