Ei Emotional Intelligence Complexity Theory

The topic of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has never failed to attract attention, and this is based on the popular assumption that emotion is the antithesis of intelligence. In each one’s life, there has surely been at least one occasion where one has been told to ‘not be emotional’, and to ‘use your head instead of your heart’. Under this assumption, to use emotions means to be ‘soft’ and to be lacking in logic and reason, and that the term ‘intelligence’ is only applied to the cognitive process. Some definitions of intelligence may even include job skills and vocational skills (defined in the paragraphs below as ‘domains’), thereby adding further confusion.

As time goes by however, the rapid growth in the literature and research on EI by various writers and psychologists/scientists from the 1990s onwards have provided some compelling arguments to indicate that emotions and intelligence are not at opposite ends, but are complementary to each other. In terms of brain structure, the neo-cortex (responsible for the logical or cognitive process) sits on top of the limbic area. The proverbial ‘heart’ in romantic literature is not located in the physical/biological heart but rather, in the limbic area of the brain. Both parts of the brain work more closely together than one may assume, and if not for the inter-working between the neo-cortex and the limbic area of the brain that provides a nurturing response, mammals would also most likely devour their young instead of protecting them (Goleman, 1997).

Regarding a clear definition of the term ‘intelligence’, Gardner (2006) has provided some clarification on the difference between the terms ‘domain’ and ‘intelligence’. He stated that the confusion in defining intelligence was due to the fact that most people thought that ‘intelligence’ and ‘domain’ are inter-changeable (whereas they are not), and this causes an activity or area under a domain to be incorrectly categorized as an intelligence. Gardner (2006) explained that a domain is ‘any organized activity in which individuals can be ranked in terms of expertise. Any occupation, art, craft, or sport is a domain’ (p. 65).

Therefore, the term ‘intelligence’ refers to the human computational capacity and the ability to utilize this facility to solve problems and apply them in the environment in which the individual is residing. However, computation doesn’t only apply to numbers but also to other types of information requiring selection and discrimination such as music, words, self-awareness, and social relations. Gardner (2006) further stated that intelligence is a bio-psychological construct, while a domain is sociological in nature.

As a whole, a good basic definition of EI is ‘the expansion of the conventional view of intelligence and IQ to include social and emotional aspects’ (Coleman, 2006). This means that the term ‘intelligence’ does not apply solely to the human cognitive process, but it also involves the emotional aspects of the mind that can be used to assist and clarify the thinking process. Emotions can be used to ‘facilitate cognitive activities such as problem solving, reasoning, decision making, and creative pursuits’ (Grewal and Salovey, 2006, p. 107), and therefore can be used to enhance, rather than to disrupt one’s thinking process.

EI has also become a popular topic due to the attention and coverage given to this subject by various psychologists, writers, and institutions. However, EI is not a new area of study as it was researched back in the 1920s by E.L. Thorndike under the term ‘social intelligence’ (Goleman, 1997, p. 42) although at that time, social intelligence was thought to reside under the area of human communication and is not regarded as an intelligence in its own right.

Within the context of today’s organizations, EI is crucial as it needs to be taught, implemented and practiced by all the members of the organization. It all starts from the fundamentals, and since an institution is nothing without its people, this means that EI starts with the core of the organization; its staff and the administration/management team.

I believe that EI is a crucial component in leading people in organizations based on the increasingly complex and uncertain nature of life today.  If there are too many external forces pulling at the fabric of the system itself and its boundaries, theoretically the system will have to be flexible enough to withstand the pressure from the changing demands, otherwise it will be torn apart into chaos.  EI will be able to provide this resilience.

I am also fascinated by the fact that as the world advances into the future, it becomes increasingly important that we need to go back to the basics regarding human beings and their interactions. These interactions create relationships that form dynamic human networks and interconnections, and these networks hold the real competitive advantage to a better future. It is not to say that other factors such as material wealth and technology are not important, but the cultural network and interconnections that use the technology and wealth as the ways and means to achieve certain goals are the ones that are holding the real value for the future. 


Coleman, S. (2006) OLR Research Report: Emotional Intelligence. [Internet] Connecticut General Assembly. Available from:  <http://www.cga.ct.gov/2006/rpt/2006-R-0607.htm> [Accessed 7 March, 2010].

Gardner, H. (2006) Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons. Basic Books.

Goleman, D. (1997) Emotional Intelligence. Trade Paperback ed. NY, USA, Bantam Books.

Grewal, D. D. & Salovey, P. (2006) Benefits of Emotional Intelligence. In: Csikszentmihalyi, M. ed. Life Worth Living : Contributions to Positive Psychology. Cary, NC, USA, Oxford University Press, Incorporated.