Questions for Emotional Intelligence's Daniel Goleman

First off, we want to thank Daniel Goleman for taking the time to join us here at NurtureShock. We hope the conversation over the next few days leads to a new understanding of emotional intelligence (EI) and Dan's work.

We also would like to clarify two points made by Dan yesterday, just to avoid confusion. Dan began his response by refuting an allegation made by some – that he has said emotional intelligence accounts for 80% of one's career success. Instead, Dan said his point has been that, if IQ reportedly only accounts for 20% of success, that leaves 80% unaccounted for – and some part of that may be due to EI.

We note that we have never attributed such a statement to Dan, so his point was not a critique of our reporting. Instead, it was just a general point of clarification – for us, and our readers.

Secondly, Dan wrote that we argue that emotional intelligence and executive function are in competition as psychological concepts. However, we did not say that: it was Pamela Paul who had made that point. In our post, we simply did a brief review of the history of the research behind executive function and emotional intelligence. How they interact is an entirely different topic – one we haven't covered yet, but perhaps we will in the next few days.

Those issues now addressed, we want to spend the remainder of this post asking Dan questions about his work. We're excited to do so, and we look forward to his responses. For readers – these are the exactly same types of questions we would ask any researcher: inquiries into the larger ramifications of a work; responses to other scientists' reactions; and the nitty-gritty about data and methodology.

So, Dan, let's dive right in, shall we?

1. In your post, you mention Yale Dean Peter Salovey is your friend and co-worker. During a 2008 speech to the American Psychological Association, Salovey condemned your work as a series of "outrageous claims." For example, you wrote: ". . . what data exist suggests it [EI] can be as powerful, and at times more powerful, than IQ." However, Salovey charges that, when you wrote that, in 1995, there was actually no data at all, to support your position. Similarly, in American Psychologist, Salovey and colleagues wrote: "Journalistic accounts of EI raised unrealistic ideas such as that '90% of the difference' between star performers and other workers is attributable to 'emotional intelligence factors' (Goleman, p. 1998a, p. 94) . . . [these] claims that we have repeatedly pointed out are misleading and unsupported by research."

Particularly in light of your friendship with Salovey, please tell us how you feel about his assessment. Why isn't your research persuasive for Salovey?

2. In the 2005 edition of Emotional Intelligence, you report that a 2005 Weissberg meta-analysis of 668 studies had found 50% of children in social and emotional programs improve their achievement scores, and as many as 38% improved their GPA. Then in 2006, you and Dr. Weissberg later co-authored a study, citing the same exact 2005 analysis, but at that time you wrote that the meta-analysis only included 379 interventions.

Then, yesterday, you mentioned Weissberg's still unpublished meta-analysis was now only analyzing "more than 200" studies.

So it seems that as many as 468 of the 668 programs have been dropped from the meta-analysis. Can you please give us some examples of the programs cut from the analysis and why they had to be cut to get the article publishable? Also, can you please update us on the children's achievement scores and GPA data in the remaining studies? Now that the sample has been reduced by two-thirds, do you still see the same improvement in academic performance?

3. In the 2005 edition of Emotional Intelligence, you write that there is no real way of measuring emotional intelligence. If there is no way to tell how much (or little) of it someone has, how can we know if emotional intelligence has any benefit? And can we determine if efforts to increase EI are effective, without a point of comparison?

4. Other scholars do have measures of emotional intelligence. The studies we've seen put the correlation of EI and academic achievement at about r=.1 to an r of .03 – something between no relationship and a very small one. What is wrong with these studies, so that we should disregard them? And if the studies are accurate, is this a strong enough relationship that we should have schools around the world institute social and emotional learning programs – at the expense of other subject matter?

5. If schools everywhere follow your request – and mandate teaching emotional intelligence curricula – what specific test should they use to assess a student's progress in emotions and social skills? How do we test a third grader's mastery of empathy? Should this be a mark on a child's report card along with math and language skills? And how should schools respond to a child's failure to progress in emotional intelligence curricula? Would children be held back a grade or removed from a gifted program?

6. Personality traits are a moderate predictor of academic achievement; however, what the traits predict change from year to year. For example, in kindergarten, extraversion is an asset in the classroom; however, by eighth grade, the best students are often conscientious introverts. How does the teaching of emotional intelligence square with these changes in personality traits and classroom performance? How can we teach children appropriate emotional responses or social strategies, if what is appropriate at Time 1 could be the opposite at Time 2?

7. Can you address emotional intelligence, cross-culturally? If people live in a culture where emotion and self-disclosure are discouraged, are they less emotionally intelligent? If so, should they work to increase expressivity regardless the tradition? Even in schools? Also, we're aware of recent studies indicating that culture can utterly transform the psychological consequences of a social interaction. (For example, US teens are likely to be depressed if their parents are psychologically controlling, but that is not the case with parents in Asia.)

Also, how should schools address cultural bias or socio-economic deprivation in assessment of a child's emotional intelligence? (c.f., programs often use sliding scales for IQ requirements, based on a child's background.)

8. While cognitive intelligence has many dimensions, there is a unifying element, be it called g or fluid intelligence, which alone counts for half the variance in full-scale IQ scores. Critics have charged that your work does not actually portray an "emotional intelligence"; instead, it's just your label for a hodgepodge of positive traits and behaviors. What do you feel is the corresponding unifying element of emotional intelligence, that drives the varied dimensions of persistence, self-control, empathy, etc.? What tests of EI most load this unifying element?

9. You've been writing about emotional intelligence for approaching 20 years now. Do you think that children today are more or less emotionally intelligence than when you began this work?

10. Our writing to date has said that emotional intelligence is an interesting idea, and more research should be done, but the data thus far is just too new and inconclusive to act upon. You seem to agree with that, since at your post's conclusion, you ask us to wait a decade to see how the research plays out. We would be happy to do so. However, you advocate creation of worldwide programs in schools and the workplace, based on these decade-away findings. And you have been doing so, since 1995. Why should we take such dramatic steps, if the research is still so tenuous?