Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Competence

                     Defining Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Competence

In theory, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability for an individual to use certain aspects of cognitive thought processes, specifically pertaining to interpersonal and intrapersonal relations, " toward successful environmental adaptation" (Seal & Andrews-Brown, 2010, p. 145). It is the interplay of emotion and intelligence (Seal & Andrews-Brown, 2010). Emotional competence (EC) is the ability to correctly recognize, effectively utilize, and appropriately manage (express) emotions (Santrock, 2008). Furthermore, it is being aware of and managing oneself emotionally, being socially aware, and having the ability to implement social skills effectively (Seal & Andrews-Brown, 2010).

                                              Contrast and Comparison
Whereas EI is one aspect of cognitive ability, EC is the level of proficiency of one aspect of EI. (Seal & Andrews-Brown, 2010). EI envelopes a wider range of cognitive abilities, whereas EC speaks to the degree of self-regulation and awareness. EC is the deeper subset of EI. EI is the underlying foundation for EC, and EC is an expression of EI. EI emphasizes controlling one's emotions whereas EC is the ability to express emotions appropriately and effectively.


One common component of the two is self-awareness. As a component of EI, self-awareness develops along with other cognitive abilities (intrinsic as well as inspired by the quality of the community with which the individual socializes). EI is affected by development in that as the individual develops more accurate and a wider range of abilities, the level of emotional intelligence and self-awareness grows. Self-awareness in EC is affected by development as well - as individuals develop and their EI evolves, they also have a greater potential capacity to evaluate personal patterns of EI and, become more self-aware, and take the opportunity to discover how to manage emotions in a way that maximizes contextual circumstances.

As Piaget might theorize, throughout development the individual passes through stages in which he or she becomes more adept at certain cognitive skills (Santrock, 2008). As the cognitive skills increase, so does the individual's EI as well as the capacity to learn to manage various aspects of EI, in this case, the competence of managing emotions as they relate to self-awareness.

For example, Piaget would say that two-year-olds are mostly aware of themselves as the center of the universe, and for the most part, they have not learned to manage emotions when socializing. They are difficult to reason with and may throw a temper tantrum to obtain what they want. Alternatively, nine-year-olds are far more capable of reasoning and have become aware of others in the world. Their EI has developed and they realize they are not the center of the universe. Simultaneously, they have a greater capacity to learn to master their emotions within the context of their level of intelligence (Santrock, 2008). They have a greater ability to understand themselves, their patterns of behavior, and their ability to reason with themselves. Biological and psychological growth along with social experience develops self-awareness of EI as well as the potential to develop awareness of the self in EC. Developing EI is an active process that transpires through experience, observation, the context, and trial and error (Larsen & Brown, 2007).

                                 Cultural Component of Emotional Competence
I found Hayashi, Karasawa, & Tobin, (2009) interesting for several reasons: one was that the Japanese preschool pedagogy seemed to promote collectivism, which would be a natural enculturation process at the preschool level for a collectivist culture like Japan's. In comparison, such a pedagogy would be taught differently in the U.S. Because we have traditionally placed value on the individualist expression of emotions and ideas, perhaps training for EC would take precedence over teaching EI. As an example, instead of talking about the loneliness of poor Mr. Carrot in the Japanese classroom, perhaps the teacher in an American classroom would suggest Mr. Carrot get his act together and do something about it - basically take charge of his emotions and behave more appropriately for a grown carrot.

Second, in Japan, a country that is half the size of the U.S. but with twice its suicide rate, perhaps it is more salient than is immediately evident, to teach the ability to identify and appropriately manage emotions. In any culture, first the family, and then school and peer relationships work together with intrinsic capacities to help children learn EI and the personal management of emotions (EC) (Hayashi, Karasawa, & Tobin (2009).

                                   Biological Basis of Emotional Competence
In the discussion of EI and EC, it seems important to consider the biological basis for emotion, in general. The learned ability to become emotionally competent depends, at least in part, on the functionality of brain structures, including the prefrontal cortex as well as the amygdala and hippocampus (Davidson, 2003). Contrary to William James' theory of emotion, neuroscience has shown that emotion does, in fact, have dedicated brain centers (Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, 2000). So, although EC is considered learned behavior, it depends on the individual's ability to change and grow as well as the capacity of individual brain structures. EI may play a significant role in social adaptation (Brackett, Rivers, Shiffman, Lerner, & Salovey, 2006), and if that is the case, biology, specifically the adequacy of functioning of brain structures, plays an equally crucial role.

Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., Shiffman, S. Lerner, N. & Salovey, P. (2006). Relating emotional abilities and social functioning: A comparison of self-report and performance measures of emotional intelligence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(4), 780–795. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.91.4.780

Davidson, R. J., Jackson, D. C., & Kalin, N. H. (2000). Emotion, plasticity, context, and regulation: Perspectives from affective neuroscience. Psychological Bulletin, 126(6), 890-909. doi: 10.1037//0033-2909.126.6.890

Davidson, R. J. (2003). Affective neuroscience and psychophysiology: Toward a synthesis. Psychophysiology, 40(5), 655-665. doi: 10.1111/1469-8986.00067

Hayashi, A., Karasawa, M., & Tobin, J. (2009). The Japanese preschool’s pedagogy of feeling: Cultural strategies for supporting young children’s emotional development. Ethos, 37(1), 32–49.

Larsen, R. W., & Brown, J. R. (2007). Emotional development in adolescence: What can be learned from a high school theater program? Child Development, 78(4), 1083–1099. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1352.2009.01030.x.

Seal, C. R., & Andrews-Brown, A. (2010). An integrative model of emotional intelligence: Emotional ability as a moderator of the mediated relationship of emotional quotient and emotional competence. Organization Management Journal, 7, 143–152. doi: 10.1057/omj.2010.22

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