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Feeling smart, feeling good...
le 24 février 2006
Ever since I read Martin Gardiner's book on multiple intelligences, I have been intrigued by the study of how we learn and the different types of intelligence. No one disputes that mathematical/analytical brain-power is a very different type of intelligence from the kind of bodily intelligence that makes someone a graceful gymnast or a super athlete; while there is often some cross-over between the kinds of intelligence that make for good mathematicians and good musicians, the kinds of intelligence that are brought to bear on different parts of our lives get developed in different ways.
One of the more controversial and overlooked types of intelligence is Emotional Intelligence. I do not agree with the idea that one's EQ is in some way opposite from the IQ, the standard intelligence quotient idea (which in and of itself is calculated and reliant on different criteria depending upon the test). I don't believe that Goleman ever makes such a dramatic claim as to show a precise inverse relationship between the EQ and IQ. He does show that there are different kinds of difficulties that can arise, and that a high IQ does not necessarily (or even often) translate into a high EQ.
After a brief introduction exploring the general issues of intelligence and the power of emotions, Goleman
looks at new discoveries in brain anatomy and architecture, particularly as it pertains to what happens when emotions `take over'. The second, and longest, section of the book looks at the nature of Emotional Intelligence. This is being able to understand oneself as well as others, being able to control emotions (or not), and drawing on Aristotle's phrase from the Nicomachean Ethics, being able to have the right degree of emotion at the right time for the right reason for the right duration. Goleman's third section incorporates the general ideas of Emotional Intelligence into the broader context of living, stating that one's emotional intelligence is in fact a more critical factor than pure computational intelligence at being `successful' in many important parts of life - from personal relationships to professional relationships, self-satisfaction and self-growth, emotions often hold sway over traditional `intelligence'. The fourth section examines developmental issues, leading to the final section exploring what happens when such development goes wrong.
Goleman's observation that children seem to be increasingly depressed, despondent, violent and unruly than in the past may or may not be accurate - unfortunately, such comparisons with the past often rely on shaky anecdotal evidence or studies whose parameters are different, and thus whose conclusions cannot be accurately compared. However, it certainly seems that these are true observations. Goleman warns of a coming crisis as unprepared children face an adulthood full of emotional stress and crises for which they have not developed coping skills. Goleman calls for more emphasis on emotional intelligence issues - anger management, conflict resolution, sense of self, etc. for school children to reduce violence and potential for crime.
Overall, this book presents interesting ideas. The idea of Emotional Intelligence is fairly new, and will no doubt be adapted and revised in the coming years. Goleman's task here may be less of a comprehensive overview rather than an introductory shout to the community that needs to address the issue.