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Emotional Intelligence: A Primer

written by Nicholas Hall 10 November 2007

Nicholas Hall, MAPP '06, is the manager of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Behavioral Lab. He consults on worker satisfaction and engagement, and sits on the advisory board of Omnirisk Management Tools. His research work focuses on work satisfaction, character strengths, and positive psychology, and is published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Articles by Nicholas are here.

Peter Salovey

Peter Salovey

There have been psychologists in the past that have attempted to describe a skill resembling emotional intelligence. None have gone so far and defined so well the concept of EI (“emotional intelligence”) as has Peter Salovey, professor of psychology at Yale University, and his colleagues. Salovey, Caruso, and Mayer (2004) “believe that there is an intelligence involving the processing of affectively charged information.” What do these researchers mean by “affectively” charged? They are referring to information that is tinted by affect, by emotion. Since the type of intelligence that Salovey and his colleagues describe involves the processing of emotional information, their definition of EI includes both the capacity to reason about emotions and the ability to use emotions to assist reasoning.

How Can We Measure EI?

There are several tests for what is broadly called emotional intelligence. The three well-known scales are the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory, the Emotional Intelligence Scale, and the MSCEIT (Salovey et. al., 2004). The MSCEIT, compared to the other tests, is the one that has the least amount of overlap with other psychological constructs and analytic intelligence, showing it to be a significantly separable and unique construct according to current psychology. (FYI, psychological constructs can include personality, such as the Big Five of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism). The MSCEIT is made up of eight task groups, two for each branch of emotional intelligence as defined by Salovey and Mayer (1990). The four branches of EI represent a hierarchy of abilities:

  1. Perceiving emotion
  2. Using emotions to facilitate thought
  3. Understanding emotions
  4. Managing emotions

The MSCEIT is not a self-report measure; it puts you through a set of tasks that demonstrates your skill. Examples of tasks are:

  • Identifying emotions in faces,
  • Identifying which emotions would best facilitate a type of thinking, and
  • Identifying which emotion would be created by blending two distinct emotions.

How Do Positive Psychology and EI Differ, and How Are They the Same?

Positive psychology is a sub-field of psychology that, as Chris Peterson puts it, “seriously examines that which makes life worth living.” In general terms, it is the study of successful and happy individuals and organizations. Such topics of study include strengths of character and virtue, personal meaning in the workplace, and how to build these things into our lives and organizations. These topics surely impact our emotions, even when the topic is not our positive mood or emotion itself. Success elicits particular emotions, usually positive, and particular emotions (usually positive) can elicit higher performance. Character and virtues are not about emotions necessarily. They are about pragmatic and moral attitudes and behaviors that can help facilitate success. And thriving organizations typically are built through action and group processes that are attached to group performance, not group ethos.

Emotional intelligence on the other hand is all about the internal emotional awareness of the individual. As studied and defined by Salovey, Mayer, and Caruso (2004), emotional intelligence includes four branches of “abilities.” Can people perceive their emotions? Can they facilitate specific thoughts through the use of their emotions? Do they understand their emotions and relationships among them? Can they manage their emotions, and emotions within relationships with others?

What these two fields have in common is the broad study of emotions. At the same time, positive psychology isn’t limited to emotions, and within emotions, positive psychology mostly limits itself to the study of positive emotions. (Positive psychology does not study jealousy and depression, for example). So there is overlap.

In my next article, I ask where do Positive Psychology and EI overlap?



Mayer, J. D. (2004). Emotional Intelligence: Key Readings on the Mayer and Salovey Model. Dude Publishing.

Salovey, P., Caruso, D., & Mayer, J. D. (2004) Emotional intelligence in practice. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.) In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.). Positive Psychology in Practice. (pp. 447-463). Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons.

Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9, 185-211.

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Jojo C. Laoingco 2 August 2010 - 4:19 am

Dear Dr. Nick Hall,

I came across your EIQ self-test, and I am interested to use it in my research on the topic (EIQ). I would like to measure my university’s (Saint Louis University, Baguio City, Philippines)faculty’s EQ and correlate their EQ with the performance rating that the university management does every year.

I hope you will allow me to use the EIQ tool you developed?

Thank you very much


Emer Reyes 20 June 2011 - 3:25 am

Dear Dr. Nicholas Hall,


I am a teacher from University of Makati, while surfing the net I came across with your Emotional Intelligence Self-Evaluation Test. Timely, I am doing an action research to measure the EI of incoming students of Social Studies majors in our University. May I also ask your permission to allow me to use your instrument on this research?

May I also ask your kind indulgence to furnish me a copy of some of your articles regarding your EI-Test?

Wishing your positive response on these matters.

Very truly yours,

Emer G. Reyes
University of Makati

Anna 19 August 2011 - 9:00 pm

Dear Dr. Nicholas Hall,


I am a graduate shool student of Central Philippine University, Iloilo City, Philippines. I saw your Emotional Intelligence Self-Evaluation Test via the net. I would like to ask your permission to allow me to use your instrument on my research about EI of nurse managers.

I hope of your affirmative response regarding this matter. Thank you and God bless.

Very respectfully yours yours,

Anna Teresa Bautista

Sasi 16 February 2015 - 4:02 am

Dear Dr. Nicholas Hall,


I am currently enrolled for Master of Arts in Nursing at Central Philippine University, Iloilo City, Philippines. In this connection, I would like to ask your permission to allow me to use your instrument, the Emotional Intelligence Self-Evaluation Test on my research about EI among staff nurses.

Hoping for your positive response regarding this matter. Thank you and God bless.

Respectfully yours,

Junixer D. Sasi

ALMA BELLA BALITE-DIPUTADO 1 April 2020 - 12:41 am

April 1, 2020

Dear Dr. Hall,
In behalf of my student, Mr. Dean Vincent Ruiz, a graduate School student of BIT International College, City of Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines, who proposes to study on the Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Maturity of Employees in State Universities in Region VII, please allow us to use your instrument, the Emotional Intelligence Self-Evaluation.

Hoping for a positive response , I remain



Admin K.H.B. 29 April 2020 - 10:22 am

Dr. Balite-Diputado,

Nicholas Hall is not the owner of the instruments mentioned here. You may want to contact the other researchers mentioned in the article.


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