The conventional school of thought in psychology for decades (or almost a century now) has emphasized heavily IQ as a measure of intelligence. While IQ has been the default gauge for measuring working intellect across a variety of populations worldwide (maybe due to the fact that no better approach was introduced), its authenticity as an absolute indicator of intelligence has been heavily criticized.
What makes IQ inadequate?
Though IQ tests measure the degree of cognitive function with considerable predictive accuracy in academic and work success, they are incomplete and they fall short of the full gamut of skills that would be considered as the components of ‘good thinking’. IQ tests are effective at assessing our deliberative skills - involving reason and the usage of working memory- but they are unable to assess our propensity to use them in a contextual manner. Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize winning economist and behavioural psychologist has also emphasized in this distinction: intellectual ability does not necessarily mean analytical thinking, rather it could be said that people with higher intellect ( suggested by IQ scores) are more prone to rely in their intuitions, making it more likely for them to take decisions that are not so wise. Having a higher IQ is analogous to possessing a larger knife to cut through the bushes- it doesn’t guarantee that one has the skills and capacity to use it perfectly to make his way out of the jungle. In other words, people with higher IQ are the ones with the brightest searchlight in a dark night; but it doesn’t guarantee that they will point their searchlight in the right direction. A higher wattage light in itself is not a protection against the darkness, the ability to use the light in a proper manner is. IQ tells us about the brightness and nothing about the person’s capacity to point the light in the right manner.
Thanks to the Harvard raised Psychologist and the best-selling author of the book Emotional Intelligence, the asymmetry in psychometric implications surrounding human intelligence have now opened a new line of thinking. I recently finished reading the book and I was absolutely stunned by how we tend to miss out the obvious cues that establish that being intelligent is not just about solving math puzzles and spatial riddles, it has to do more with how we handle our emotions. I want to build this contribution around Goleman’s central thesis of the book, along with other recent research that establishes emotional intelligence as the dark horse of our psycho-physical well being.
Put formally, "Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth. "
So what makes a person emotionally intelligent?
The answer is not a simple one. Instead, there are five categorically distinct domains with intricate interplay that determine a person’s emotional intelligence. Those are:
How much is a person either engulfed by the whims of his/her emotions; whether he/she can come out of the position of being ‘caught up in feelings’ and observe their own emotions and analyze them ?
Whether a person is helplessly passionate,, giving in to the emotional urges or he/she can manage the emotions that rise in his psyche? How likely is the person to lose control of rational thought process when subjected to an anxious scenario?
How much a person is able to push his/her own boundaries through everyday life and not be distracted from his/her overarching goals in life? Can the person delay gratification for a greater cause? How much emotional discipline can the person afford? How much hope and optimism can he/she reinforce?
4.Recognizing Emotions in Others
The degree of empathy the person harbors: how much is the person willing to help those in need (or in any lower position than him/herself); how much is the person able to understand the non-verbal cues of distress/fear/anxiety/suffering in others?
Interpersonal skills: how likely is the person to handle both the positive and negative aspects across relationships? How likely is s/he to end up losing trust? How meaningful are his/her social interactions?
All of the five factors, combined together, make up the emotional sphere of a person’s life and determine his/her well being. Even if a seemingly intelligent person with a high IQ topples badly in any of these five domains of emotional realm, s/he will eventually fail at making the proper use of his/her cognitive prowess. In fact there is a significant body of evidence from the psychological research that emotional intelligence indeed influences physical and mental health- which can be inferred to be one of the significant determinants of longevity and life satisfaction .
How emotional intelligence influences physical and mental health and eventually becomes a significant determinant of longevity:
In a meta-analysis dated back to 2010 that tried to find the relation between EI and health, there was a strong indication that EI correlates positively to the health and well being in the analyzed subjects. There have been subsequent studies, and they have pointed that EI can be now taken as a plausible indicator of health . In another study that examined how EI components affected the longevity and health in experts involved in education, a very strong association was observed. It was suggested that EI could be enhanced and hence a drastic change in overall health and life satisfaction can be attained through sustained practice, guidance and training.
The relationship (which seems obvious in retrospect) can be considered, for example, from the following aspects
EI and health-related behaviours
Emotionally intelligent people are more likely to regulate their behaviours towards a more healthy lifestyle. Exercising, diet patterns, concern over own health: these are the things that matter for a healthy and long life; people with higher EI tend to cultivate habits and behaviours that have positive outcomes. People with stronger EI are better at restraint and are more likely to refrain from unhealthy behaviours for eg smoking, drinking, substance use.
Being emotionally intelligent means being more resilient, mindful and more apt at handling stress and anxiety. When we are better equipped to fight the stress, we are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety; which unequivocally is a strong indicator of a person’s overall health.
EI, social well being and health
At the end of the day, we are social animals. There is already a well-established consensus that the kind of social interactions we have directly affect our mental and physical health. Given that people with better EI have better social and interpersonal skills, the benefits.
More and more research data is being accumulated on EI, aimed at developing better universal metrics to make it more accessible across the world. In the future, we can expect to have standardized tests that can effectively measure EI. It is hence very important to take EI more seriously and shift the convention towards a more holistic approach that incorporates both cognitive and emotional intellect.