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Daniel Goleman

American writer, Daniel Goleman, is the main person who made the term "emotional intelligence" widely used around the world today. He did so with his 1995 book by that name.

Many people have praised Dan for his book. This praise is in many ways well deserved. This page, however, approaches Goleman's writing from a perspective of critical thinking.

For example, Goleman honestly admits he first saw the term "emotional intelligence" in an article written in 1990 by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. After reading Goleman's book, Mayer had this to say:

"Goleman has broadened the definition of emotional intelligence to such an extent that it no longer has any scientific meaning or utility and is no longer a clear predictor of outcome." --John D. Mayer

Below is a summary of the problems with Goleman's 1995 writing about emotional intelligence. His 1995 work laid the foundation for what most people now think is "emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, he laid a scientifically unsupportable foundation, even though it has proven to be a very popular and profitable one.

With all the misinformation about emotional intelligence in the world today, it be very difficult, if not impossible, to "undo" the damage that Goleman has done. Yet it is important, at least for historical reasons, to be aware of some of these problems.

1. He made unsupported claims about the power and predictive ability of emotional intelligence.

2. His own, self-created definition of emotional intelligence included aspects of personality and behavior which are not correlated to emotional intelligence as it is scientifically defined in the academic community. (Even the academic community is still not in agreement as to what exactly EI is.) In his 1995 book he also interchange terms such as emotional literacy, emotional health, emotional skill, and emotional competency. He never defines any of these other terms, but he equates them all to emotional intelligence at one or more places in his 1995 book.

3. He implied he was presenting something new, when in fact much of what he wrote about had been studied for years under personality research and other branches of psychology, child development etc.

4. He implied that virtually anyone can learn emotional intelligence and failed to acknowledge either the relatively fixed nature of the personality traits he includes in his definition of EI or the differences in innate potential among individuals.

5. He failed to address the effects of emotional and other types of abuse on a person's innate potential for emotional intelligence.

6. He presented himself as the sole authority in emotional intelligence and failed to give adequate credit to Mayer, Salovey, Caruso and others.

7. He represented his work as "scientific" when it did not hold up to scientific scrutiny.

8. He mixed his own personal beliefs about what is "appropriate" when it comes to emotions and behavior often contradict the academic theory and research concerning the value of our emotions. Goleman holds a fairly Stoic view of emotions, believing they are primarily something to be controlled and restrained, rather than something to be valued and integrated into our lives in ways which will help us significantly advance humanity.

9. There is strong evidence that Goleman was not intending to write a book about emotional intelligence when he started writing. It seems he was actually writing a book about emotional literacy and then later changed the title of the book to "Emotional Intelligence," possibly so the book would have more sales appeal.

After Goleman's 1995 book became a best-seller, he discovered that business people were very interested in his beliefs about how we should manage our emotions. Goleman quickly wrote a book called "Working with Emotional Intelligence," and he became a very highly paid corporate consultant.

Goleman continued to make unsupported claims. At one point, for example he claimed that his assessment tool, the ECI -360, was the "genuine article" when it came to testing for emotional intelligence. Yet no one in the academic community supported his claim that it was even measuring emotional intelligence at all.

We at EQI believe the concept of emotional intelligence is too important to humanity to overlook or forget these very serious problems with Dan's writing and work. We still do, however, believe he performed an important service by raising awareness of the idea of "emotional intelligence."


Note - This page is a very short summary of the original page found on eqi.org. That page is being rebuilt.

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Robert Sternberg's Letter to the Editor of the APA Monitor

This letter was written by Robert J. Sternberg, one of the most respected psychologists in the USA. It was written to the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1996.

Credit the original theorists

I was disappointed in the article on emotional intelligence in the workplace by Bridget Murray in the July Monitor.

Daniel Goleman has done the field of psychology a valuable service by expanding upon and especially by popularizing the notion of emotional intelligence originally set forward by Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer. Goleman’s contribution is well represented by this article. There are two aspects of the article that troubled me, however.

First, one can understand why lay media would concentrate on the popularization rather than on the scientific theory underlying the popularization. But it is disappointing when the Monitor contains no more than passing references to the work of the originators of the concept and theory. Many individuals have expanded upon and popularized the work of theorists such as Freud or Skinner, but at least the original theorists still receive major credit and attention from psychologists.

Second, given the growing body of carefully designed empirical research that now exists on emotional intelligence (both pro and con), it is disappointing that this research was largely ignored. Psychologists deserve at least a taste of what has been and is about to be published in scientific journals as well as of what is to be published in popular psychology books.

I do not mean to detract from the outstanding contribution that Daniel Goleman has made. But articles such as this one do a disservice to the field in passing over the scientific contributions that are at the core of our discipline.

Robert J. Sternberg
New Haven, Conn.

(Source: American Psychological Association letters )

Annie Paul Article on Goleman

Full Article


Selected Quotes From the Article

...while Goleman drew on the prestige of academia, he failed to adhere to its scrupulousness.


The original theory only has a nodding acquaintance with the version presented in Goleman's book.


If its author was surprised by the success of "Emotional Intelligence," the original researchers were amazed. But their initial thrill at the book's celebrity soon gave way to dismay. Goleman had distorted their model in disturbing ways.


John D. Mayer

Mayer was a co-author of the 1990 academic article from which Goleman took the concept of emotional intelligence. This quote comes from an article by Tony Schwartz