emotional intelligence (EI)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: How to solve your TMI problem: Data science analytics to the rescue

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the area of cognitive ability that facilitates interpersonal behavior.

The term emotional intelligence was popularized in 1995 by psychologist and behavioral science journalist Dr. Daniel Goleman in first book, Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Goleman described emotional intelligence as a person's ability to manage his feelings so that those feelings are expressed appropriately and effectively. According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is the largest single predictor of success in the workplace.

Dr. Goleman and other social scientists have promoted the concept of a emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) test to serve as a counterpart to more traditional intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. While a traditional IQ test seeks to evaluate an individual's ability to learn new information, an EQ test seeks to evaluate an individual's capacity to deal successfully with others. To that end, EQ test questions focus on assessing soft skills such as self-awareness, social awareness, relationship management and empathy.

Although Goleman's theories have been influential, they have not gone without criticism. Several of his peers have claimed that among other things, Dr. Goleman's research has not been sufficiently rigorous. Most critics agree, however, that the concept of emotional intelligence is a valid one because human intellect is complex and it's simply not possible for one type of intelligence test to provide an accurate assessment of a person's ability to be successful.

Dr. Daniel Goleman explains why it is important for schools to teach emotional intelligence.

This was last updated in April 2016

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Emotional Intelligence is supremely important for tech people. The days of the long programmer hanging out alone in a dank room churning out code and scoffing at the plebes are over. 

People work together to make products for other people. Understanding how to work together, or at least how to deal with being around others for several hours every day is crucial to being useful on a team.


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