BRONSON & MERRYMAN: You mention Yale Dean Peter Salovey is your friend and co-worker. During a 2008 speech to the American Psychological Association, Salovey condemned your work as a series of “outrageous claims.” For example, you wrote: “… what data exist suggests it [EI] can be as powerful, and at times more powerful, than IQ.” However, Salovey charges that, when you wrote that, in 1995, there was actually no data at all, to support your position. Similarly, in American Psychologist, Salovey and colleagues wrote: “Journalistic accounts of EI raised unrealistic ideas such as that ‘90% of the difference’ between star performers and other workers is attributable to ‘emotional intelligence factors’ (Goleman, p. 1998a, p. 94) … [these] claims that we have repeatedly pointed out are misleading and unsupported by research.”
Particularly in light of your friendship with Salovey, please tell us how you feel about his assessment. Why isn’t your research persuasive for Salovey?
GOLEMAN: To create a new field of inquiry in any science, you have to start by connecting dots from previous work in related fields. That’s what I did in my 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (as well as my newest, Ecological Intelligence.) I was building on the 200 or so scholarly studies cited in the book, as well as ten years of reporting on the field for the New York Times. When Peter Salovey refers to the lack of data from measures of emotional intelligence at the time I wrote, he’s right – there were few studies of emotional intelligence per se, and only the beginnings of a scale to measure the construct itself. I was arguing for the existence and utility of the construct based on a large amount of converging data from related research (just as Peter Salovey and John Mayer did in their first article on the subject in 1990).
When Peter cites my 1998 book as a source of confusion, he’s referring to the point I made in my earlier blog – that the data from competence studies inadvertently created confusion, which rippled through the popular media. More important, there is so much good research on emotional intelligence since 1995 that Peter Salovey summarized it in a chapter in the Annual Review of Psychology. Both Peter and John Mayer have told me that if I hadn’t written my book there would not have been the large wave of research on the topic that is going on today.