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Emotional Intelligence is the Key to the Future

By: Sai Srihaas Potu

Emotional intelligence (EI) has been an important and controversial topic during the last few decades. Its significance and its correlation with many domains of life have made it the subject of expert study. EI is the rudder for feeling, thinking, learning, problem-solving, and decision-making.

EI is of great interest to scientists and researchers. Studies continue to be made about the nature of emotional intelligence, its measurement, its structure, its positive and negative effects, and its relationship to many research fields. Its influence on daily life in the short and long-term is important as well.

Intellectual ability is significant to succeed in everyday life within many different sectors. Intelligence is an important aspect of the mind that includes a lot of cognitive abilities such as one’s abilities in logic, planning, problem-solving, adaptation, abstract thinking, understanding of ideas, language use, and learning. However, there are some other important components that contribute to the aforementioned success including social capabilities, emotional adaptation, and emotional sensitivity.

In the last couple of years, researchers have started to realize the impact that emotional intelligence has on our daily lives. A new study of 152 Vietnam veterans with combat-related brain injuries offers the first detailed map of the brain regions that contribute to emotional intelligence. By studying war veterans, the researchers were able to better determine the degree to which damage to specific brain areas was related to impairment in specific aspects of general and emotional intelligence. The study allowed the researchers to better understand how humans process emotional information and navigate the social world.

The results showed a significant overlap between general intelligence and emotional intelligence. Higher scores on general intelligence tests corresponded significantly with higher performance on emotional intelligence tests. Thus, the researchers were able to conclude that many of the same brain regions were important to both intellectual configurations.

Aron Barbey, a neuroscience professor, led a study that mapped the brain regions associated with emotional intelligence. A previous study led by Barbey mapped the neural basis of general intelligence by analyzing how specific brain injuries impaired performance on tests of fundamental cognitive processes. In both studies, researchers pooled data from CT scans of participants’ brains to produce a collective, three-dimensional map of the cerebral cortex. They divided this composite brain into 3-D units called voxels. They compared the cognitive abilities of patients with damage to a particular voxel or cluster of voxels with those of patients without injuries in those brain regions. This allowed the researchers to identify brain areas essential to specific cognitive abilities, and those that contribute significantly to general intelligence, emotional intelligence, or both.

Ultimately, they found that specific regions in the frontal cortex and parietal cortex were important to both general and emotional intelligence. The frontal cortex is known to be involved in regulating behavior. It also processes feelings of reward and plays a role in attention, planning, and memory. The parietal cortex helps integrate sensory information and contributes to bodily coordination and language processing.

Previously, researchers believed that general intelligence and emotional intelligence were different. The most widely used measures of human intelligence focus on tasks such as verbal reasoning or the ability to remember and efficiently manipulate information. In many cases, intelligence depends on basic cognitive abilities, like attention, perception, and memory. However, it can also depend on social interactions. Humans are fundamentally social beings and our understanding not only involves basic cognitive abilities but also involves productively applying those abilities to social situations so that we can navigate the social world and understand others.

The new findings will help scientists and clinicians understand and respond to brain injuries in their patients, but the results also are of broader interest because they illustrate the interdependence of general and emotional intelligence in a healthy mind.

Emotional intelligence is a very important concept that has come back to the fore in the last decades and has been the subject of serious discussions and studies by many experts. The importance of general intelligence is neither underestimated nor changed, and this has been proven through many surveys and studies.

On the other hand, we must also give emotional intelligence the place it deserves. The cultivation of emotional intelligence can contribute to and provide many positive benefits to people’s lives in accordance with studies, surveys, and what has been already mentioned. When it comes to happiness and success in life, emotional intelligence (EI) matters just as much as intellectual ability (IQ).

At one point in time, IQ was viewed as the primary determinant of success. People with high IQs were assumed to be destined for a life of accomplishment and achievement and researchers debated whether intelligence was the product of genes or the environment. However, some critics began to realize that not only was high intelligence no guarantee for success in life, it was also perhaps too narrow a concept to fully encompass the wide range of human abilities. This laid the path for new studies that analyzed the importance of IQ vs EI. In the end, both IQ and EI undoubtedly play roles in influencing our overall success. Rather than focusing on which factors might have a more dominant influence, the greatest benefit may lie in learning to improve skills in multiple areas.


1. Aron K. Barbey, Roberto Colom, Jordan Grafman. Distributed neural system for emotional intelligence revealed by lesion mapping. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 2012.

2. Austin E. J, Dore P, O'Donovan K. M. Associations of personality and emotional intelligence with display rule perceptions and emotional labor. Personality and Individual Differences. 2008.

3. Austin E. J, Saklofske D. H, Egan V. Personality, well-being, and health correlates of trait emotional intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences. 2005.


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