August 1, 2021

What is (exactly) emotional intelligence? | Science

What is (exactly) emotional intelligence? | Science

The expression "emotional intelligence" is included today in the lexicon of many, both ordinary people and intellectuals or celebrities. Even ministers use it in their comments and warnings. But not everyone refers to the same thing when you use that expression. For some, emotional intelligence is something like a more advanced kind of intelligence than classical intelligence, that is, analytical intelligence, which measures the tests that end up giving a result in the form of a numerical coefficient. There are also those who refer to emotional intelligence in negative, as an inability to control emotions: "He behaves as if he had no emotional intelligence." There are also those who believe that it is a new type of intelligence recently invented, because, after all, the concept of intelligence is not absolute, as are the size or weight of a person, since it always depends on the observer's criteria. Others, at last, do not even know what they mean when they talk about that kind of intelligence. Perhaps for all this it is worth trying to clarify the concept.

Some years ago that the popular Anglo-Saxon magazine Time turned the cover of one of his numbers into a question written in large characters and addressed to the general public "What is your emotional intelligence coefficient?" She herself, in much smaller characters, answered: "It's not your IQ. It is not even a number. But emotional intelligence can be the best predictor of success in life, redefining what it means to be smart. ". Those were the times when the journalist Daniel Goleman he had published his well-known and successful work Emotional Intelligence, making many believe that he had created or discovered that (new) type of intelligence.

The concept has also served so that many dared to challenge the biological evolution of the brain and mental abilities by putting emotion before reason, giving primacy to the first. Certainly, emotions changed the mammals' brain more than 200 million years ago and perpetuated a powerful influence of them that is still alive in our species and our days. But far fewer years ago, although not a few, some 60 million, the primates' brain developed the neocortex, the modern cerebral cortex, a cluster of highly organized neurons capable of dominating the rest of the brain. That development conferred, although we did not always notice it, primacy to reason, that is, ability to dominate feelings.

He did it in a very special way, which we do not usually notice. As a fabulous and insightful subject, reason set out to dominate emotion by using its own weapons: one emotion is only removed by another emotion, another emotion that is stronger and more powerful and / or incompatible with the one that one wants to eliminate. Anyone who has suffered a sentimental crisis, such as being abandoned by their partner, knows very well that the best way to overcome this crisis is not so much to underestimate the loss as to arouse a new romance. And for that, to arouse emotions incompatible with undesirables, it is for what reason serves. Well used, reason will always be more powerful than emotions. Both reason and emotion are part of the functional system that is the human mind. They go together and they need each other. Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage emotions using reason. Emotions are the indispensable army that continuously mobilizes reason.

Who knew and knew better was not the journalist Daniel Goleman, nor the psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey, of the American University of Yale, modern scholars of the concept. It was the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD), nicknamed the wise and true father of emotional intelligence. In his imperishable work Meditations, excellent treaty of emotional intelligence, includes the phrase that all the faculties of Psychology should sculpt with a hammer and chisel on the marble of its façade: "The life of a man is what his thoughts make of it".

Well used, reason will always be more powerful than emotions

Nobody has captured better than this great philosopher of ancient Rome the evolutionary essence of the human mind, the ability of reasoning to modify emotions, the way of seeing things, although things themselves can not change them. That capacity, insists Marco Aurelio, is always within our reach to make life easier for us. Using the neocortex we can make our reasoning, our emotions and our behavior fit together. That lace is the true essence of emotional intelligence, a mental capacity as old as one's own Homo sapiens sapiens.

But whoever does not wish to go back to such distant times still has the possibility of educating his emotional intelligence following the steps of the most read and translated Spanish classic author after Cervantes, the Jesuit Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658). His work The art of prudence, published in 1647 and translated into multiple languages, sometimes in beautiful formats of bible paper and reference tape, is one of the best treatises on emotional intelligence that can now be read. As this same newspaper explained on December 16, 1993, its author could never imagine that one of his translations in the US in 1992 would sell more than 100,000 copies. Likewise, and responding to a survey of The New York Times, the writer Gail Godwin recommended its reading to the aspiring politicians to the presidential elections of that country. Here, in our country, the same advice would not hurt us either today.

Ignacio Morgado Bernal He is director of the Institute of Neurosciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Author of Emotions and social intelligence: The keys to an alliance between feelings and reason. Barcelona: Ariel, (2010). And of Corrosive Emotions: How to face envy, greed, guilt, shame, hatred and vanity. Barcelona: Ariel, (2017).


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