Emotional Intelligence From A Systems Perspective

EI is best understood in the broader context of an individual's functioning. This means looking at the interaction between EI and other cognitive abilities, emotional and motivational traits, and behavioral criteria. The importance of investigating a mental ability in relation to other areas of psychological functioning is not new (Eysenck, 1979; Sternberg & Ruzgis, 1994; Wechsler, 1958). For example, Eysenck (1979) asserted that nonintellectual attributes (e.g., impulsivity) might interfere with aspects of intelligence such as checking for errors. Thus, viewing a mental ability such as EI within a complete personality system can elucidate how it contributes to diverse psychological processes and behavior.

A number of psychologists have emphasized the need to adopt a systems perspective to organize and understand psychological variables (e.g., Bron-fenbrenner, 1979; Csikszentmihalyi, 1999; Lewin, 1936; Magnusson & Stattin, 1998). It is useful to divide the personality system into its major functional elements, and a variety of divisions have been employed to do this. One recently proposed functional division organizes personality into four broad areas: (a) a knowledge works, which includes mental models and cognitive capacities that operate on them, (b) an energy lattice, which combines motives and emotions, (c) a role player, that executes social acts, and (d) an executive consciousness (Mayer, 1998, 2001a, 2001b).

The knowledge works pertains to cognitive or intellectual functions that enable understanding of both the self and the world. Components of knowledge works include mental models (e.g., explanatory style), intellectual abilities (e.g., general intelligence), and cognitive styles (e.g., field-dependence). The energy lattice pertains to motivational and emotional attributes that energize and direct behavior. Components of the energy lattice are motives (e.g., achievement), emotions (e.g., happiness), and emotional styles (e.g., neuroticism vs. emotional stability). The role player pertains to the social functions of personality and is responsible for planning and executing social behavior through social roles (e.g., leadership), social skills (e.g., acting skill), or physical-motor expression (e.g., gracefulness). Finally, the executive consciousness pertains to conscious awareness and self-regulatory functions. It also controls behavior by overseeing other areas of personality functioning. Functions of the executive consciousness include awareness (e.g., absorption), coping strategies (e.g., problem-solving coping), and self-awareness (e.g., self-consciousness).

Mayer and Salovey's (1997) model of EI described an intelligence that draws on functions from the emotion system (in the energy lattice) and the cognitive knowledge and capacity of the knowledge works. Furthermore, the self-regulatory aspects of the EI model may draw on the executive consciousness portion of personality.

The fact that the EI model draws on features from a number of areas of personality has several implications. For example, cognitive abilities share some common variance. Because both cognitive IQ and EI draw on cognitive abilities, EI is expected to share some variance with general intelligence, while remaining distinct from it (Mayer et al., 2000). Furthermore, EI should be related to other cognitive abilities such as creative and practical intelligence (Sternberg, 1999).

With regard to the energy lattice, components of EI such as emotional regulation may be related to a person's experience of more positive and less negative emotions. EI could also inform the motivation system by helping people to choose tasks in which they are likely to succeed. The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking might also help a person to invest time and effort in actions that are most appropriate for current mood states. For example, an emotionally intelligent person could be expected to work on inductive reasoning and creative tasks when in happy moods, and tasks requiring deductive reasoning when in sad moods (Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987; Palfai & Salovey, 1993).

EI may also be important for social interactions (i.e., role player functions) because it involves the ability to decode nonverbal and emotional signals and to manage one's own and others' emotions. Therefore, an emotionally intelligent person is predicted to have more harmonious social relationships that include mutual care and understanding and less conflict (see Ciarrochi, Forgas, & Mayer, 2001; Lopes et al., 2003).

Finally, EI should be related to aspects of the executive consciousness. In particular, the regulation of emotion branch could be expected to correlate negatively with impulsive behavior and positively with healthier life decisions. Therefore, it is expected that EI would negatively correlate with physical fighting, and excessive drug and alcohol consumption.

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