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An Intelligent Look at Emotional Intelligence Guy Claxton University of Bristol UK.

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1 An Intelligent Look at Emotional Intelligence Guy Claxton University of Bristol UK

2 EI is the height of fashion… ‘Emotional Intelligence…increases individuals’ capacity to access emotional states that will enable them to play a part in the evolution of a more harmonious and vibrant learning community.’ –The Emotional Literacy Handbook

3 Key factors in EI Knowing one’s emotions Managing one’s emotions Motivating oneself Recognising emotions in otehrs Handling relationships skilfully Plus, in 1998, Self-confidence, trustworthiness, initiative, optimism, political awareness, leadership (almost everything an employer might want…)

4 Developing EI? EI is learnable (unlike IQ) It’s quite easy… for example ‘Circle time’ Teaching SEBS Emotional ‘check-in’ Training conflict resolution skills Quizzes for e.g. ‘optimism’ Methods for ‘calming’

5 But EI has its skeptics… ‘The positive side of the Emotional Intelligence movement is that it helps broaden our concept of intelligence… The negative side of the movement is that it is often crass, profit-driven, and socially and scientifically irresponsible’ –Prof Robert Sternberg, Yale University Strong words – what is he claiming? EI is too important to be done badly. Sloppy thinking and exaggerated claims don’t ultimately help the cause…

6 Areas of concern Measurement (different measures don’t correlate) Distinctiveness (overlap with ‘personality) Novelty (has ‘EI’ only just been discovered?) Direct teaching / training? Unity (‘The jury is still out as to whether there is a scientifically meaningful concept of EI’ Prof Seymour Epstein ) Success (is EI crucial for life?)

7 And some more… ‘Feel good, learn good’? –Stress improves memory –Happiness makes for sloppy learning –‘self-esteem is much more potent when it is won through striving wholeheartedly for worthwhile ends, rather than derived from praise, especially praise that may be only loosely related to achievement’ Prof Carol Dweck, Columbia University Practical / realistic? (Or a grandiose wish-list?) Effective? ‘It’s good to talk’ – depends how you talk!

8 Some moral qualms… Is ‘the good life’ getting what you want? Can EI sometimes be more for teachers’ benefit than the students? Or for employers (‘McFeelings’?) Emotional fascism? Where did the richness of emotional life go? –Wistfulness, lovesickness, jealousy, remorse, tenderness…

9 The cognitive science of emotions An oxymoron? Recent developments Emotions are a core part of intelligence Readiness responses to trouble Based on often preconscious appraisal ‘Set’ the parameters for physiology, action, attention, memory, learning Communicate with others Resolution results in different kinds of ‘happiness’

10 How your brain responds to these…

11 A couple of examples ALARM Distress Cry ‘Help!’ Comfort Panic NOVELTY Interest Investigate ‘Look at this!’ Mastery recklessness

12 A conclusion ‘People sometimes forget their own lived experience when they step into the world of Emotional intelligence. All the puzzling minutiae of our emotional lives – of anxious phone-calls, frosty silences, sudden smiles, stabs of envy and pangs of guilt – can get bleached out in the bright light of cheerful nostrums and confident advice. ‘How simple life would be if it was as simple as we thing’, said novelist Michael Dibdin. And nowhere does that wry comment apply more strongly than to the business of emotional education. Let us be optimistic by all means. But let us not deceive young people, nor their teachers, about the slipperiness and inscrutability – the marvellous mystery – of their emotional lives’

13 Further information Copies of An Intelligent Look at Emotional Intelligence from and more about me at


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