Emotional intelligence and biology of emotions

Critical analysis of the concept of emotional intelligence in the Daniel Goleman book of 1995. In emotional intelligence, words of diffuse meaning are involved, such as: intelligence, control and emotions.

Cover of the book on Intelligence, Intuition and Creativity. Egyptian goddess Nut with the Sun above her head.



Author: José Tiberius



2.d) Emotional intelligence

It is one expression with popular success in recent years from Daniel Goleman’s book published in 1995. Let us analyze the concept of emotional intelligence from various perspectives.

It is worth mentioning that if there were problems in the definition and acceptance of the concept of intelligence, the new expression is even more confusing since it is partially contradictory.

  • Previous Concepts

    There have always been attempts to take away reputation from the characteristic of personal intelligence, especially by those who do not have it as much as they might wish or they do have ideological prejudices.

    The distinction between being intelligent and clever has the same inspiration for the expression of emotional intelligence.
  • Terminology

    Some concepts can be useful and descriptive of reality or ideas, but in the case of Daniel Goleman, the chosen vocabulary seems more like an attempt to change the meaning of the word intelligence or represent something not corresponding with the given content. The adjective emotional is different and even contradictory to logic or reasoning.

  • Concept

    Daniel Goleman’s definition of emotional intelligence uses words with diffuse or diverse meanings like intelligence, control, emotion, feelings, social success, and personal well-being.

    Everyone can think of and assume a concept appropriate to their socio-personal reality.

    The Scapegoat
    William Holman Hunt (Public domain image)
    The Scapegoat - William Holman Hunt

    A suitable philosophy would be worddology for the concept of emotional intelligence.

    Of course, those who champion the concept would develop an idea more in line with social intelligence; but the terminology had such strong connotations that it does not work.

  • Scientific character

    There is not any! Trying to evaluate social success objectively or valuing the adequacy of interpersonal relationships or emotional well-being is like imposing an objective scale on personal happiness.

    Apparently, in extreme cases of depression or other types of personal problems, one can try to make some objective scale, but it will always be in general terms such as standard, slight, or severe. Besides, they would not be suitable for emotional intelligence.

  • Biology of emotions

    The Global Cognitive Theory dedicates a chapter to this subject in the book on willpower. In particular, emotions are not feelings, which are on a more spiritual level to avoid complicating an already tricky issue.

    The concept of emotions is close to the body’s automatic reactions, both cognitive or physiological. In this sense, they are like programs of immediate action that have been created throughout the whole life and form part of a person’s character. Each person optimizes these automated response programs as much as possible.

    Emotions exist because it would not be possible to examine complex situations that require quick response or it would not be efficient for repetitive circumstances; therefore, they are automated in both cases. Expecting to control emotions would mean giving up the brain’s and body’s elegant design, which is impossible as the majority of these actions are inherent.

  • Sociological support

    Socially, the concept of emotional intelligence is enough to promote the working spirit of citizens. It would not look lovely, from a political point of view, to point out possible genetic differences in intellectual abilities.

    The media in general and specialized magazines about the brain are happy to include articles commenting positively on the modern concept of emotional intelligence.

    Also, numerous freelance professionals enthusiastically take on Daniel Goleman´s emotional intelligence and the possibility of self-improvement, while saying they have a special gift and are naturally experts.

  • Personal success

    The significant advantage of emotional intelligence is allowing each person to become intelligent, and even more, also emotionally intelligent. This perspective increases self-esteem when believing that those who are intelligence in a strict sense do not adequately manage emotional intelligence.

    The less intelligent someone is in a strict sense, the more probable to accept the new concept. Likewise, this effect is more significant if a person does not have much self-esteem regarding intelligence.

Indeed, there are some signs that, when characterizing people with the word “intelligence” in this new context, it is independent of whether they are intelligent in the strict sense. Moreover, in most cases, this expression tries to diminish the importance of the classical concept.

There could exist cases where the acceptance of the new expression is related to feelings like arrogance, envy, personal complexes, or economic interests.

To summarize, a real and useful idea behind emotional intelligence exists, in line with social abilities, but the expression is unfortunate, so it becomes something entirely negative.

The concept of elegant intelligence is much more pleasant and real. It allows everybody being proud regardless of the quantitative aspect and comparisons because, in short, the logic of the evolution of life leads to quite a pyramid of development stages of the group of elemental and multifaceted abilities.

Thanks, and respect to all the living beings that have made and continue making the current world possible.