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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2021 / Winter 2022)

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Book review: Emotional intelligence at the heart of human performance and well-being

By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University

Understanding Emotional Intelligence
John T. Lanthem
Nova Science Publishers
199 pp. 

In the public mind, based on press coverage in the 1990s, one of the more common stories related to emotional intelligence (EI) is the delectable marshmallow.

A study was conducted in which children (ages 4 – 6) were asked to put off gratification (eating the marshmallow) for a short time; if they were able to hold off, they would receive a second marshmallow a short while later.  Those who were able to delay gratification, in a follow-on longitudinal study, were found to grow up with higher test scores and more satisfactory work and professional lives.  The thinking was that these children could self-regulate their emotions and control their impulses based on emotional intelligence, would have stronger cognitive skills to benefit their own decision making and life choices.  There is power in awareness and control over both emotions in the self and that of others.  [An update on these studies found aligned results but with less effect.]  


Since then, emotional intelligence has been applied to a variety of areas:  workplaces, leadership, psychotherapy, and other areas, with the general findings that EI is adaptive in people; it enables people to better navigate a complex social world and to better thrive there.  John T. Lanthem’s edited collection, Understanding Emotional Intelligence, features works about EI from different angles:  “adolescence, bullying, intimate relationships” and other topics (Lanthem, 2021, p. vii).  

Adolescent bullying and cyberbullying explained with emotional intelligence research

Elizabeth Cañas, Estefanía Estévez, and Jesús F. Estévez’s “Emotional Intelligence in Adolescence:  A Perspective from Bullying and Cyberbullying” (Ch. 2) opens with some definitions which hold readers in good stead for the collection.  

Human intelligence is defined as “the general mental capacity involved in the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, understand complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience” (Arvey, et al., 1994, A 19, as cited in Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, p. 3).  Human emotions are described as “a complex set of interactions between subjective and objective factors, mediated by neural/hormonal systems that can (a) lead to affective experiences such as feelings of arousal, pleasure/dislike; (b) generate emotionally relevant cognitive processes such as perception, assessments, or labeling processes; (c) trigger generalized physiological adjustments to certain situations or conditions; and (d) result in behavior that is often, but not always, expressive, targeted, and adaptive” (Kleinginna & Kleinginna, 1981, p. 355, as cited in Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, pp. 3 - 4).  Emotional intelligence is defined primarily as “a skill that exceeds general intelligence” (p. 2).  More specifically, it involves a skillset including “self-control, enthusiasm, and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself” (Goleman, 1995, as cited in Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, p. 5).  It also involves not only self-regulation of emotions but other-regulation of their emotions.  These emotional competences can be learned.  

EI is partially affected by parenting styles, which include a “constellation of behaviors” (Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, p. 20).  The research team writes:  

Concerning emotional intelligence, various studies suggest that safe attachment, that is, one characterized by showing warm, cohesive, and flexible parental bonds, is positively associated with emotional intelligence, constituting one of the most effective factors in the development of this type of intelligence. (Nästasă & Sala, 2012; Ramírez-Lucas et al., 2015, as cited in Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, p. 22)  

Beyond parents, the EI of youth are also affected by teachers and other influential adults.  It is affected by peers.  

In the adolescent context, when youth do not have fully mature brains, EI is even more important for emotional self-regulation and social interactions.  Youth need to be able to accurately read their own emotions and those of others (through empathy) and manage themselves and the emotions of others, in a social context, to enable “healthy relationships” (Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, p. 14).  There are intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects to EI.  People have to be able to read the intentions of others in a complex world with mixed motivations.  They benefit from being able to collaborate as an important social competence  (Slee & Skrzypiec, 2016, as cited in Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, p. 25).  

Bullying and cyber-bullying are seen through the lens of EI in this work.  Those who engage in bullying are seen as having less EI and related skills to deal with their own frustrations and so take it out on others.  Their lack of empathy enables them to engage in intimidating behavior.  Adolescents with higher levels of EI may have more protective factors against bullying and victimization.  They summarize:  “Violent behavior at school and/or in the cyber context has been linked to low levels of emotional intelligence. Conversely, high levels of emotional intelligence have been associated with the development of more adaptive behavior” (Cañas, Estévez, & Estévez, 2021, p. 30).  

Emotional intelligence and intimate relationships

If emotional intelligence enhances how people socialize and interrelate, then certainly it should have an impact on some of the closest bonds that people form.  María Alfonso-Ferres and Ginés Navarro-Carrillos “Emotional Intelligence as a Protective Factor in Intimate Relationships” (Ch. 2) explores the possible salutary effects of EI in romantic relationships.   In this work, EI is defined as “the ability to process significant information in emotional terms” (p. 45), for both personal and social functioning.  Higher emotional intelligence has been found to benefit work, with lower-burnout, higher job satisfaction, and higher organizational commitment (p. 49).  There are salutary effects in the classroom.  As EI benefits social interacting, certainly, as “an essential ingredient of healthy and happier relationships” (p. 54), it may have positive effects on dyadic relationships.  Here, “romantic relationships are characterized as the most interdependent type of interpersonal relationship, in which emotional experiences are very frequent as partners coordinate a life together” and strive to establish “effective, stable, healthy, and happy relationships” (p. 46).  The co-researchers write:  “if high-EI people are more effective in managing emotionally rich interpersonal interactions and building richer social networks, higher EI is likely to enhance their subjective well-being, happiness, and satisfaction with their relationships, especially intimate ones such as with romantic partners” (p. 52).  

Intimate relationships will at times be conflictual, with disagreements between partners.  To resolve these, partners require constructive coping and intercommunications.  Partners with low EI have been found to have a lower quality of relationship.  Prior research did not find that those with positive relationships had necessarily partners with higher EI.  

Relationship dissatisfaction may be handled in four ways:  voice, loyalty, exit, and neglect (Rusbult, et al., 1986, as cited in Alfonso-Ferres & Navarro-Carrillos, 2021, p. 55).  “Voice” involves directly addressing the conflict, “loyal-resolution” involves just waiting for conditions to improve, “exit-resolution” involves threatening to end the relationship, and “neglect-resolution” involves passively waiting for the relationship to deteriorate (p. 55).  More constructive and active coping is associated with higher relationship satisfaction, enhanced intimacy, and enhanced satisfaction (p. 55).  It is important to lessen “neglect responses” in relationships (p. 57).  

The researchers summarize findings from another study:  “Higher levels of violence (i.e., physical, verbal, and psychological aggression) in intimate relationships was associated with lower EI, particularly in men (Jaffe et al., 2015 as cited in Alfonso-Ferres & Navarro-Carrillos, 2021, p. 58).  In terms of gender, women may show higher EI in some studies because they are socialized to be more competent emotionally (p. 60).  

A light historical review of human emotions up to the present

From ancient times, thinkers lauded reason over emotion, according to Yasen Dimitrov in “Emotions and Rationality:  The Long Journey of Emotional Intelligence towards Itself” (Ch. 3).  There was the sense that emotions may overwhelm the rational mind and mislead people, separate them from God, and lead to poor decision-making. Over time, there have been various ideas about the interrelationships between the human body and mind, emotions and rationality, and other aspects.  This work offers a narrative rendering of the evolution of thought about human emotions, through various human societies and civilizations.  The summary shows just how much interpretive range is possible to understand human cognition.  As to the present moment, there have been seminal contributions of the psychological sciences to the modern-day understandings of emotions. 

Emotional intelligence in bullying context:  Effects on victims, bullies, bully-victims, and uninvolved adolescents

The state of emotional intelligence has an important role in the lives of those involved in bullying, in Cirenia Quintana-Orts, María Teresa Chamizo-Nieto, Nicolás Sánchez-Álvarez, Sergio Mérida-López, Lourdes Rey, and Natalio Extremera’s “Testing the Contribution of Emotional Intelligence on Bullying Context: A Comparison of Victims, Bullies, Bully-Victims and Uninvolved Adolescents” (Ch. 4).  The idea is to understand how individuals end up in various roles in this scenario (although individuals may in some cases be bullies and in other cases be bullied).  Perhaps addressing EI deficits may be used to “prevent bullying victimization and peer-aggression” (p. 104) in education practice.  

The researchers conducted a study of 3,585 Spanish adolescents in 15 secondary schools, and they came away with an intriguing population breakdown:  “47.8% uninvolved, 27.2% victims, 6% bullies and 19.1% bully-victims” (Quintana-Orts, Chamizo-Nieto, Sánchez-Álvarez, Mérida-López, Rey, & Extremera, 2021, p. 104).  In their study, they found that EI dimensions played a role, in combination with demographic and other factors:  

Results showed that scores in EI dimensions differed by bullying role. Uninvolved adolescents scored higher in appraisal of one’s emotions, use of emotion and regulation of emotion compared with other bullying profiles. After controlling for age and sex, results showed that there were differences in the EI dimensions to predict bullying involvement.  In particular, regulation of emotion predicted involvement in all bullying roles.  These findings suggest the relevance of specific emotional intelligence competencies against bullying in adolescence and the different roles they play for victims, bullies and bully-victims.  (p. 104)  

Bullying is prevalent in the world.  One study based in 83 countries found “a prevalence of bullying victimization of around 30.5%, with a range between 7% and 75%” (Biswas, et al., 2020, as cited in Quintana-Orts, Chamizo-Nieto, Sánchez-Álvarez, Mérida-López, Rey, & Extremera, 2021, p. 105).  Researchers found that “regulation of emotion” predicted “involvement in all bullying roles” (p. 113).  

Being female, older, and “high other-emotion appraisal” and low “regulation of emotion” were found “to be significant individual predictors of the victim role” (p. 113).  Further:  “Being a girl…, older age…, high self-emotion appraisal…, and scoring low on OEA (other-emotion appraisal)…and ROE (regulation of emotion)…were significant individual predictors of the bully role” (Quintana-Orts, Chamizo-Nieto, Sánchez-Álvarez, Mérida-López, Rey, & Extremera, 2021, p. 113).  

Those who are bullied often experience negative psychological effects.  Higher levels of EI may buffer the negative impacts of bullying situations if the bullying happens, and it may prevent the bullying altogether (Quintana-Orts, Chamizo-Nieto, Sánchez-Álvarez, Mérida-López, Rey, & Extremera, 2021, p. 108).  The uninvolved students were found to score higher in “self-emotion appraisal” and “regulation of emotion” and “emotional intelligence” (p. 112), but do “uninvolved” students mean “bystanders” to the bullying?  Does this suggest a standoffish approach as more positive for overall well-being?  If so, this would be a high social negative if the bystander effect is affirmed with a focus on selfish interests instead of prosocial ones.  

Adolescents benefit by developing emotional competences to avoid bullying in school (p. 118), so they can focus more on learning.  

Historical review of emotional intelligence studies and effects for work and health

Another work also provides a historical review of EI studies and the evolution of the concept.  Sara Esteban-Gonzalo and Laura Esteban-Gonzalo’s “Emotional Intelligence:  Historical Overview and Practical Implications for Work and Health” (Ch. 5) credits early EI ideas to Hinduism and the Bhagavad-Gita (Gayathri & Meenakshi, 2013, as cited in Esteban-Gonzalo & Esteban-Gonzalo, 2021, p. 131), which may suggest something of the universality of this aspect of human thinking. Various thinkers have contributed to the modern sense of EI:  Edward Thorndike, David Wechsler, Abraham Maslow, Peter Salovey, John Mayer, Daniel Goleman, and Reuven Bar-On, among others.  Contemporaneously, emotions are seen as an integrated part of human intelligence, necessary for survival, important for helping people bond, and necessary for living in current society.  
Those with high levels of EI are able to recover a state of positive mood more quickly after a “negative mood induction” (Esteban-Gonzalo & Esteban-Gonzalo, 2021, p. 135).  Those with low EI tend to experience mood and anxiety disorders, personality disorders, poor impulse control and other follow-on states based on a “lack of emotional awareness and regulation” (p. 135).  EI may be protective against some mental health disorders (p. 143).  The implications of EI levels may be seen in employment relationships, marital relationships, leadership capabilities, teamwork abilities, work-life balance, work promotion, and other life aspects.   

Cited research suggests that some of the EI differences between the sexes may be at least partially based on cultural issues.  The co-authors summarize some of the studies’ findings: 

It has been found that women are more knowledgeable and aware of their emotions, they express their positive and negative emotions more frequently, they have more interpersonal competencies, and are more socially adept as well. (Esteban-Gonzalo & Esteban-Gonzalo, 2021, p. 141).

Physical activity and EI in adolescents

Immaculada Méndez, Cecilia Ruiz-Esteban, Ana B. Jorquera, and José Manual García Fernández’s “Levels of Physical Activity and Emotional Intelligence in Adolescents” (Ch. 6) supports the conventional wisdom of the benefits of exercise and the risks of being sedentary.  This research team found that the more sedentary students “showed lower values in all dimensions of emotional intelligence compared to the more active group of students” (pp. 153 - 154).  They found gradations as well:  “…among students with a moderate activity level, lower values were found in intrapersonal intelligence and in general mood, in contrast to the more active students” (p. 154).  The topline observation is that exercise is important for mental health and development. The challenge is that a large majority of adolescents around the world, an estimated 81%, are “not active enough” based on the World Health Organization (2020, as cited in Méndez, Ruiz-Esteban, Jorquera, & Fernández, 2021, p. 154), with many attracted to “passive digital leisure” (p. 155).   This work advises the development of the whole person.  

Self-compassion for improved future mental health

An important element in mental health for an individual involves self-compassion, according to Daniel Jiménez-Payano, Luisa García, Asha Nazir, Luz Bonilla, Greicy Veras, Leidy Rodríguez, Elaine Rivas, María Tejada, and Pablo Ezequiel Flores-Kanter’s “Can Self-Compassion Predict Future Anxiety and Depression?  A Cross-Lagged Panel Model Analysis in a Dominican Republic Sample” (Ch. 7).  Compassion relates to “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it” (p. 174), and self-compassion is composed of “self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness” (Neff, 2003, as cited in Jiménez-Payano, García, Nazir, Bonilla, Veras, Rodríguez, Rivas, Tejada, & Flores-Kanter, 2021, p. 174).  Self-compassion today has protective psychological effects on the individual, resulting in much less anxiety and depression, and other outcomes from emotional dysregulation (p. 173).  Lower levels of self-compassion (or even negative self-compassion) at Time 1 resulted in more depression and anxiety at Time 2.  They write:  

In general, our results imply that self-compassion in time 1 predicts generalized anxiety as well as the affective and cognitive components of depression in time 2.  Since the signs of depression and anxiety explored in the GAD-7 and PHQ-9 underpin psychopathology (Krueger & Eaton, 2015), self-compassion should take part in treatments that aim to prevent or reduce psychopathology and its negative consequences.  (Jiménez-Payano, García, Nazir, Bonilla, Veras, Rodríguez, Rivas, Tejada, & Flores-Kanter, 2021, pp. 186 - 187)  

There are some therapies to enhance self-compassion.  The researchers suggest that there may be mediating variables between self-compassion and anxiety, and self-compassion and depression (p. 187), which require more study.  


John T. Lanthem’s Understanding Emotional Intelligence (2021) can be read as a way to benefit self-development and other-development, in various educational and work contexts.  For adults, they are beset by various marshmallow temptations of their own. Perhaps there are smarter decision making paths than reaching for the temptation.   

About the Author

Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer / researcher at Kansas State University.  She is working on multiple book projects. Her email is  
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