The past few decades have seen increasing interest in emotion research. Although much remains to be learned, agreement is beginning to emerge regarding the way emotion should be viewed. Emotions provide a unique source of information for individuals about their environment, which informs and shapes their thoughts, actions, and subsequent feelings, and there is a growing view that emotion information can be used more or less intelligently. A notion central to emotional intelligence theory is that individuals differ in their ability to perceive, understand and use emotional information, and this ability significantly contributes to intellectual and emotional well-being and growth.
Emotional intelligence as a concept has prospered, in part, because of the increasing personal importance of emotion management for individuals in modern society. Indeed, researchers have commonly claimed that emotional intelligence predicts important educational and occupational criteria beyond that predicted by general intellectual ability (e.g. Elias & Weissberg, 2000; Fisher & Ashkansy, 2000; Fox & Spector, 2000; Goleman, 1995; Mehrabian, 2000; Saarni, 1999, Scherer, 1997). Furthermore, the chief proponents of emotional intelligence appear to have made strides towards understanding its nature, components, determinants, effect, developmental track, and modes of modification (Matthews, Zeidner & Roberts, 2001) Since Goleman's (1995) best-seller, Emotional Intelligence, popularized the concept, researchers have used an extensive number of attributes or abilities drawn from psychology to define emotional intelligence. Goleman's book contains definitions and descriptions of what he identifies as the five key components of emotional intelligence: knowing emotions, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing emotions in others, and handling relationships. Goleman attributes varying sets of personality attributes to each component, the final effect being that most of personality is covered by his definitions. Towards the end of his book, he claims "there is an old-fashioned word for the body of skills that emotional intelligence represents: character" (p. 285). As such, variations in the manner with which people think, feel, and act are ostensibly ascribed to differences in "disposition" and "style". The notions of disposition and style however do not accommodate for the flexibility with which people interact with the world, according to Mischel (1990). In fact, claims by proponents of a trait-based theory of emotional intelligence have yet to produce any serious supportive evidence (Davies, Stankov, & Roberts, 1998; Epstein, 1998; Mayer & Cobb, 2000; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso. 2000). Mischel argues that people's experiences of the world are selectively constructed, and that the range of potential thoughts, feelings and behaviours that people engage within and across situations are largely determined by information-processing competencies. Emotional intelligence researchers focus on disposition and style arguably needs therefore to be augmented by a deeper understanding of these competencies if we are to better understand why people behave and respond to affective information in the ways that they do. Exploration of such competencies, when it has deviated from general intelligence, has centered mainly on social problem-solving skills and abilities that are often broadly grouped under the concept of social intelligence. Social intelligence involves understanding how to convince others to do things, how to manage power relationships, and how to manage power relationships, for example (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso, 2000). Given the rich affective content of social situations and problems, researchers such as Salovey and Mayer (1990) believe that emotional competencies are fundamental to social intelligence. In addition, some investigators (e.g., Showers and Kling, 1996) believe that people's self-knowledge and inner life is...
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