by Aubrey Wursten
The scientific principles behind EQ theories are well documented by some of the most reliable organizations in the world. Yale University, for example, boasts an entire Center for Emotional Intelligence, and who can argue with the school that produced five Unites States presidents? We certainly won’t, because they also house the largest U.S. university particle accelerator, and they might turn it on us.
To further appease the particle accelerators, and because their credentials are actually impeccable, we will use the work of Yale scientists Daisy Grewal and Peter Salovey to explain the scientific origins of EQ theories. In a piece entitled “Feeling Smart: The Science of Emotional Intelligence,” Grewal and Salovey describe how ideas on the subject have evolved since ancient times, when Stoics believed emotions to be irrational and detrimental.
By the 20th century, psychologists had realized that certain people seemed to possess exceptional “social intelligence.” At this point, these preliminary ideas were limited to mere speculation, and no definitive research was done on the subject. However, the seeds of interest were planted by these observant pioneers in the discipline, and they grew into the flowery foliage of modern EQ science. (We like to think of them as emotional hibiscus. Or maybe orchids.)
Grewal and Salovey go on to document how, in the latter part of the century, neurologist Antonio R. Damasio and his colleagues conducted scientific studies that suggested that emotions are in fact inextricably intertwined with reason. The 1980s saw a resurgence of interest in the subject, and research on it became common in the scientific community.
In recent publications, Travis Bradbury explains how new studies and statistics demonstrate the validity of EQ theories. For instance, researchers have found that people with average IQs outperform those with high IQs in 70% of tested cases. Furthermore, 90% of high performers are also high in EQ skills. These are numbers that can be verified, and therefore they give new credence to these theories.
In his recent work, Bradbury illustrates how scientists now understand the physiology behind emotional intelligence. As he explains, “Emotional intelligence requires effective communication between the rational and emotional centers of the brain.”
When you have a sensory experience, the primary senses enter your spinal cord to get to the front of your brain. However, they first take a scenic trip through your limbic system, which is your body’s figurative Emotion City. Therefore, “[you] have an emotional reaction to events before [your] rational mind is able to engage.”
In short, we can only wish good luck to those Stoics, who wanted to avoid emotional involvement in their behavior. The good news for our unenlightened ancient friends is that emotions actually contribute to our intelligence. Furthermore, we can increase it.
Modern Brain Training
Our fabulous brains have the ability to change. Every cell can form 15,000 connections to its neighboring cells, thereby increasing our capacity to emotionally reason. As Bradbury sums it up, “Once you train your brain by repeatedly using new emotional intelligence strategies, emotionally intelligent behaviors become habits.”
And the next thing you know, your exceptional EQ skills are paving the way for an acceptance to Yale. Have fun playing with that particle accelerator.