EQI.org Home | Emotional Intelligence

Jack Mayer
(John D. Mayer)


Jack Mayer's website on emotional intelligence (There are now some full copies of his articles on the site on Jack's site.)

Full PDF copy of Peter Salovey and Jack's historically important 1990 article on emotional intelligence.- Source

Copy of interview of John Mayer conducted by Dr. Robert Eptsein for Psychology Today, July/August 1999, Vol. 32 Issue 4, p20.

Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Abuse, Emotional Support - Comments by S. Hein

nhpr.org/view_content/2368/ This was a link to a radio interview with Jack. I have contacted nhpr.org to check on it.



In my opinion, Jack Mayer is the person most worthy of credit for doing the original thinking on, and development of, the concept of emotional intelligence. It is hard to find much information about who this person is though. He is a very quiet person, a very humble person. He is not a person who has been trying to make money from the concept of EI. He is one of the few people in this "field" that I can say that about.

I have met Jack on several occasions. I have almost nothing negative or critical to say about him. He is, to me, basically what a researcher and scientist should be. I believe Jack is interested primarily in knowledge, understanding and truth. Money and fame seem to be very low on his priority list.

He and Peter Salovey wrote the original article about their concept of what emotional intelligence might be back in 1990. In that article Jack was listed second to Peter, but since then Jack has taken the lead in authorship in most of the academic journal articles written by the two of them.

Steve Hein
April 19, 2005

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Free EQ for Everybody Book

Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Abuse, Emotional Support

by S. Hein

One of the things I have been saying for a long time is that early emotional abuse (along with physical and sexual) and lack of emotional support will have signficant affects on a person's behavior and emotional management later in life. While I respect much of the work Jack Mayer, Peter Salovey and David Caruso have done, they have said little to nothing about this possibility, something which to me and many others I have spoken to is common sense. It seems obvious, for example that if someone has been sexually, physically and emotionally abused for years, they will suffer from a lack of self-esteem, and this lack of self-esteem will profoundly affect their behavior, their emotional management and their beliefs about themselves and others.

Today I did a search of Jack's website for the term "emotional abuse".

I found no results. Jack does not even mention emotional abuse anywhere on his site.

I also checked "physical abuse" and "sexual abuse" and nothing was found. Then I tried just "abuse" and only found results referring to "drug abuse".

Then I tried the term "emotional support". Again nothing found.

I would like to encourage Jack, Peter and David to take these factors into consideration as they tell us who they think is "emotionally intelligent" and who is not.

S. Hein
Dec. 13, 2006


2012 Update - I did the searches for emotional abuse and emotional support again on Jack's site. This is what I got from Google

Information No results found for site:http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence "emotional abuse"

Information No results found for site:http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence "emotional support"

S. Hein
April 28, 2012


See also

The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence and Self-Harm

On this link are a set of articles concerning the problems I see with what I would call the "mainstream" concept of emotional intelligence.

Journal Articles

Below is a partial list of journal articles written by Jack, Peter and Jack's friend David Caruso. The list was originally prepared for me by Jack a few years ago, so it is not up to date. For more current info see Jack's website


A more up to date list is found on this page of David Caruso's site


An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works in

Emotional Intelligence

From the collaborations of John D. Mayer, Peter Salovey, and David Caruso

Originally Prepared by John D. Mayer 1

(Note: The articles are arranged in chronological order of publication; determined by Psych Lit, the database of the American Psychological Association)

Mayer, J.D., DiPaolo, M.T., & Salovey, P. (1990). Perceiving affective content in ambiguous visual stimuli: A component of emotional intelligence. Journal of Personality Assessment, 54, 772-781.

The first empirical study of emotional intelligence that explicitly used the term. People’s abilities to identify emotions in faces, abstract designs, and colors, were examined. These had never been studied together before. A single ability to recognize emotional content in the various stimuli was shown to exist.


Salovey, P. & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.

Although this was, in order of publication, our second article on emotional intelligence, it attracted the most attention by far. This article presents our first model of emotional intelligence. It is also the article most heavily relied upon by Goleman in his first book. The article provided an overview of research in a number of (then) apparently unrelated areas and suggested that findings from those different areas indicated the presence of a coherent ability: emotional intelligence.


Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1993). The intelligence of emotional intelligence. Intelligence, 17(4), 433-442.

This article was an editorial arguing that emotional intelligence could be defined as a traditional and standard intelligence. It reflects a growing focus on the intelligence model for emotional intelligence.


Salovey, P., Hsee, C., & Mayer, J. D. (1993). Emotional intelligence and the self- regulation of affect. In D.M. Wegner & J.W. Pennebaker (Eds.) Handbook of mental control (Pp. 258-277). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

This chapter employs our then evolving model of emotional intelligence (e.g., Mayer & Salovey, 1993; Salovey & Mayer, 1990) and then applies it to individual differences in the way people cope with stress. The role of emotional intelligence in various coping mechanisms, such as writing or talking about traumatic experiences, is given particular attention.


Mayer, J. D., & Stevens, A. (1994). An emerging understanding of the reflective (meta-) experience of mood. Journal of Research in Personality, 28, 351-373.

Meta-experience of mood and emotion refers to the study of the reflective experience of mood. The first meta-experience scale was introduced in 1988 (see Mayer & Gaschke, 1988, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). This article presents a revision of the scale that has far superior psychometrics. The scale focuses on state -- that is, transient -- changes in mood regulation. Although we had originally viewed these as potential measures of emotional intelligence, it was apparent after a while that ability scales would be needed to better measure the construct. Still the meta-experience of mood is an interesting phenomenon in its own right, and predicts much of importance (see also article immediately below). The concluding section examines how state meta-mood might be related to emotional intelligence.


Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D., Goldman, S., Turvey, C, & Palfai, T. (1995). Emotional attention, clarity, and repair: Exploring emotional intelligence using the Trait Meta-Mood Scale. In J. W. Pennebaker (Ed.) Emotion, disclosure, and health (pp. 125-154). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

This article published the trait meta-mood scale. Like the state meta-mood scale but more so, this article focused on the use of meta-mood scales for the measurement of emotional intelligence. Although we do not now view this as the best operationalization of emotional intelligence, the article indicates that the meta-experience of mood is predictive of important personality outcomes.


Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1995). Emotional intelligence and the construction and regulation of feelings. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 4.197-208.

In this article, we developed most carefully a rationale for the “reasoning” group of skills that were introduced in our revised 1997 model of emotional intelligence. Also included in this article was an extensive re-examination of the “management” group of skills.


Mayer, J.D., & Geher, G. (1996). Emotional intelligence and the identification of emotion. Intelligence, 22, 89-113. See abstract

Reporting important developments in the measurement of emotional intelligence, this article provided further evidence that emotional intelligence is a viable empirical concept and could be measured both reliably and validly. About 200 participants tried to identify emotion in prose passages. Those who were better at it were also more empathic, scored higher on SAT’s, and were more open. This article also provides a theoretical discussion and an empirical investigation into the best ways to score the “right answer” on emotional intelligence tests.


Salovey, P., & Sluyter, D. J. (1997). Emotional development and emotional intelligence. New York: Basic Books.

If you are interested in emotion and conduct in school, this book is a great academic resource. It is an edited volume by my colleagues Peter Salovey and David Sluyter. The first chapter is on emotional intelligence (see Mayer & Salovey, 1997, below). The remaining chapters cover other topics – some closely related to emotional intelligence, others related to emotions or good behavior more generally. It is an excellent volume, bringing together a number of theoreticians and applied psychologists who are all working on topics of interest to educators.

Mayer, J. D. & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (Eds). Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Implications for Educators (pp. 3-31). New York: Basic Books.

This chapter in the above book presents our revised model of emotional intelligence, on which our current tests and research are based. Our original 1990 model of emotional intelligence was enlarged, clarified, and better organized. The paper was written for non-psychologists to read.


Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. (1997). Emotional IQ test (CD ROM). Needham, MA: Virtual Knowledge.

A CD-ROM, self-test version of the MEIS (Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale). An ability test for self-assessment. The psychometric properties of the paper and pencil version of the scale are highly studied, and appear excellent. See Mayer, Caruso & Salovey (in press) below for further information.


Salovey, P., Bedell, B. T., Detweiler, J. B., & Mayer, J. D. (in press). Current directions in emotional intelligence research. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds), Handbook of Emotions (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

This chapter elaborates on the Mayer and Salovey (1997) model and, in particular, discusses how it fits with long-standing debates in the field of emotion concerning whether emotion facilitates rational problem solving and adaptive behavior or interferes with these processes. Some limitations of popularized versions of emotional intelligence are described in this chapter as well.


Mayer, J.D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D.R. (1999). MSCEIT Item Booklet (Research Version 1.1) Toronto, ON:MHS Publishers

This is our cutting edge ability measure for emotional intelligence. Already available to researchers and soon to be revised for more general distribution, it consists of 12 subscales to measure mental capacities releveant to emotional intelligence. The scales are keyed to our 1997 model. For information from the publisher, contact Lisa Ayoung <lisa.a.mhs.com> at MHS Publishers


Mayer, J.D. (September 1999). Emotional Intelligence: Popular or scientific psychology? APA Monitor, 30, 50. [Shared Perspectives Column] Washington, DD; American Psychological Association.

Briefly compares popular and scientific models of emotional intelligence and attempts to reign in ridiculous over-claiming in the area


Mayer, J.D. (1999). Personality and the search for success. [Book review of Seymour Epstein's Constructive Thinking: The Key to Emotional Intelligence?] Contemporary Psychology: The APA Review of Books, 44, 467-470.

Concludes this is truly an outstanding book -- although it may not have a lot to do with emotional intelligence.


Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000) Models of emotional intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.). Handbook of Human Intelligence (2nd ed), pp 396-420. New York: Cambridge.

Our most recent review examines different theories and measurement instruments that have been developed in the area of emotional intelligence. It analyzes and evaluates some of the claims made by each of the theories.


Mayer, J.D. (2000). Spiritual Intelligence or spiritual consciousness? Journal of Psychology and Religion, 10, 47-56.

Well, there is emotional intelligence, so why not spiritual intelliegence? Comments on an ariticle by Robert Emmons, a distinguished personality psychologist at the University of California, Davis, that argues for the existence of a spiritual intelligence.


Mayer, J. D., Caruso, D., & Salovey, P. (2000) Emotional intelligence meets traditional standards for an intelligence. Intelligence, 27 (4), pp 267-298.

This manuscript presents the results of the major measure of emotional intelligence developed by my colleagues and I. It also reports the most compelling evidence yet that emotional intelligence exists.


Cobb, C., & Mayer, J. D. (2000).  Emotional intelligence: What the research says.  Educational Leadership, 58, 14-18.

Mayer, J.D. (2000).  Emotion, intelligence, emotional intelligence.  In J. P. Forgas (Ed.).  The handbook of affect and
social cognition (pp. 410-431).  Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.

Mayer, J.D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D.  (2000). Models of emotional intelligence.  In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.), The handbook of intelligence (pp. 396-420). New York:  Cambridge University Press.


Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000).  MSCEIT Item Booklet (Version 2.0).  Multi-Health Systems.
Toronto: ON.



Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000) Emotional Intelligence as Zeitgeist, as Personality, and as a Mental Ability. In: R. Bar-On, & J. D. A. Parker (Eds.). The Handbook of Emotional Intelligence (pp. 92-117).  ).  New York: Jossey-Bass.


Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000) Selecting a Measure of Emotional Intelligence: The Case for Ability Scales, Chapter in: R. Bar-On, & J. D. A. Parker (Eds.). The Handbook of Emotional Intelligence (pp. 320-342).  ).  New York: Jossey-Bass. See my notes from a pre-publication copy)


Mayer, J. D., & Cobb, C. D. (2000).  Educational policy on emotional intelligence: Does it make sense?  Educational Psychology Review, 12, 163-183.

Salovey, P., Bedell, B., Detweiler, J., & Mayer, J.D.  (2000).  Current directions in emotional intelligence research.  In M. Lewis & J.M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (Second Edition, pp. 504-520).  New York:  Guilford Press.

Ciarrochi, J., Forgas, J. P., & Mayer, J. D. (Eds.) (2001).  Emotional intelligence and everyday life.  New York:
Psychology Press.


Mayer, J. D., Ciarrochi, J., & Forgas, J. P. (2001).  Emotional intelligence and everyday life: An introduction.  In J.
Ciarrochi, J. P. Forgas, & J. D. Mayer (Eds.)  Emotional intelligence and everyday life (pp.xi-xviii).  New York: Psychology


Mayer, J. D. (2001).  A Field Guide to Emotional Intelligence.  In J. Ciarrochi, J. P.  Forgas, & J. D. Mayer (Eds.)
Emotional intelligence and everday life (pp.3-24).  New York: Psychology Press.


Mayer, J. D., Perkins, D., Caruso, D. R., & Salovey, P.  (2001).  Emotional intelligence and giftedness.  Roeper
Review, 23(3), 131-137.


Salovey, P., Woolery, A., & Mayer, J.D.  (2001). Emotional intelligence: Conceptualization and measurement.  In G. Fletcher & M. Clark (Ed.), The Blackwell handbook of social psychology.  London:  Blackwell.


Caruso, D., Mayer, J.D., & Salovey, P. (2001).  Emotional intelligence and emotional leadership.  In R. Riggio & S. Murphy (Eds.),  Multiple intelligences and leadership.  Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This chapter applies the ability and mixed models of emotional intelligence to theories and functions of leadership.


Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R., & Sitarenios, G. (2001). Emotional intelligence meets standards for a traditional intelligence again - Findings from the MSCEIT.  Submitted for publication.


Below is a list copied from David Caruso's website. Please check there for the most recent updates. S.H.

     Mayer, J. D. (in press).  Emotional intelligence. In R. Fernández-Ballesteros (Ed.).  Encyclopædia of
Psychological Assessment.  London: Sage Publications.

     Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (in press).  Personal intelligence, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence: The hot
intelligences. In M. E. P. Seligman & C. Peterson, (in press).  Values In Action Classification Manual [tentative
title].  Mayerson Foundation.

    Mayer, J.D., Salovey, P., Caruso, D., & Sitarenios, G. (in press.) Emotional Intelligence As a Standard Intelligence:a reply. Emotion.

     Pizarro, D.A., & Salovey, P.  (in press).  On being and becoming a good person:  The role of emotional intelligence in moral development and behavior.  In J. Aronson & D. Cordova (Eds.), Improving academic achievement:  Impact of psychological factors on education.  San Diego: Academic Press.

       Salovey, P., Mayer, J.D., & Caruso, D.  (in press).  The positive psychology of emotional intelligence.  In C.R. Snyder & S.J. Lopez (Eds.), The handbook of positive psychology.  New York: Oxford University Press.

      Salovey, P., & Pizarro, D.A. (in press).  The value of emotional intelligence.  In R. J. Sternberg, J. Lautrey, & T. Lubart (Eds.), Models of  Intelligence for the Next Millennium.  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

       Salovey, P., Mayer, J.D., Caruso, D., & Lopes, P.N. (in press).  Measuring emotional intelligence as a set of abilities with  the MSCEIT.  In S.J. Lopez and C.R. Snyder (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology assessment.  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

       Salovey, P., Stroud, L.R., Woolery, A., & Epel, E.S. (in press).  Perceived emotional intelligence, stress reactivity, and symptom reports:  Further explorations using the Trait Meta-Mood Scale.  Psychology and Health.

       Woolery, A., & Salovey, P. (in press).  Emotional intelligence and physical health. In I. Nyklicek, L.R. Temoshok, & A. Vingerhoets (Eds.), Biobehavioral perspectives on health and disease prevention (Vol. 6).  New York:  Harwood Academic Publishers.


Anne Kendal used to be the contact for reprints


1. With updates by S. Hein





Abstract from journal article: "Emotional intelligence and the identification of emotion," by John Mayer and Glen Geher, in Intelligence, Vol. 22 (2), Mar-Apr 1996, 89-114.

Copy of an interview with John Mayer from Psychology Today, July/August 1999

Abstract and my notes from journal article: "Emotional intelligence and the identification of emotion," by John Mayer and Glen Geher, in Intelligence, Vol. 22 (2), Mar-Apr 1996, 89-114.

Authors' abstract:

This article is concerned with individual differences in the ability to connect thoughts to emotions. People who are good at connecting thoughts to feelings may better "hear" the emotional implications of their own thoughts, as well as understand the feelings of others from what they say. We had 321 participants read the writings of a target group of people and guess what those targets had felt. Several criteria were used to evaluate the participants' emotional recognition abilities, including agreement with the group consensus and agreement with the target. Participants who agreed more highly with the group consensus and with the target also scored higher than the other participants on scales of empathy and self-reported SAT scores, and lower on emotional defensiveness. Such results are interpreted to mean that some forms of emotional problem solving require emotional openness as well as general intelligence.

My notes from the article: (S. Hein Feb. 2001)

Summary - There were significant correlations found between the ability to identify emotions from written stories and empathy, openness/defensiveness, and SAT scores. In other words, the implications are that people who are able to identify emotions from the written thoughts of others are more likely to also be more empathetic, more open (ie non-defensive) and intellectually smarter. Likewise, people who are more empathetic and intellectually smarter are better able to identify emotions from written stories. Defensive people will be less able to identify emotion accurately.

Details from the article:

- article is concerned with the ability to identify emotions from thoughts

- Emotional intelligence is a sub-category of social intelligence.

- It is closely related to what others have called "intrapersonal intelligence", "hot processing" and "emotional creativity"

- "... the ability to recognize emotions is basic to a person's emotional well-being..." p. 90

- "... a person who is unable to connect her thoughts to her own emotions.." may appear "...irrational and demanding.

- "A person...who can 'hear' the emotions in another's thoughts may excel at handling certain social demands." p 91

- article mentions correlations between thoughts, perceptions and emotions which "stem from emotional appraisals of events" and offers three sources of reading on this topic

- some people are better at "recognizing and/or producing appropriate thought-emotion combinations than others." Possible reasons are 1) better cognitive processing skills 2) more open to their own and others' emotional reactions or 3) more expert knowledge concerning such connections p 91

- In the study subjects were given transcripts of real people's thoughts, then asked to name the emotions behind those thoughts with the question "...how is that person feeling?" p 91

- The authors "hypothesize that the ability to know other people's emotions is related to other indices of emotional intelligence, such as empathy, openness and general intelligence." p 91

- Authors say this is the first time such a study has been done, though other studies have asked people to identify emotions from pictures of faces and in other situations.

- Authors of this article (like others doing related work) are interested in the "accurate identification of emotion." "Common among such studies are three related issues: (a) what is the best criterion of what the target is feeling, (b) what is the best language with which to describe emotionality, and (c) what sorts of personality variables may be related to the ability to identify emotion?" (ie correlates of emotional intelligence) Each of these issues is then discussed briefly.

Issue (a) -- the best way to judge what another person is feeling

- it was noted that people do not always report their own feelings accurately (A study by Ekman found the correlation to around .30 with a range of -10 to .60) Other studies found that non-expert observers often did not accurately judge the feelings of a person they were actually talking to in a "dyadic interaction." For example, Ickes found in 1990 that the correlations between what the observer reported the person they were talking to (the target) and what the target felt were entirely not significant. pp 93-94

Other ways of trying to identify (or more closely guess) how someone else is feeling are through the use of a consensus approach or the use of an "expert." Each of these methods is very briefly discussed. (In another study Mayer helped write about this issue is discussed in more detail.

Issue (b) -- best language of emotional reports p 94

This issues is concerned with how to label emotion.

Four ways are 1) pure emotion terms such as happy 2) physical terms such as smiling and 3) more cognitive terms such as appreciated 4) terms that "depict physical or mental acts closely related to emotion such as dance around

"Initial research into emotional identification was often limited to a narrow view of the emotional lexicon." p 95

The authors of the present study used "scales of emotional experience that were closed ended, and yet sampled broadly from diverse emotion-related lexicons, including those drawn from domains of cognitive appraisals, physiological sensations, pure emotions, or emotion management." p 95

Issue (c) --Personality Dimensions Related to emotional intelligence (ie Correlates of EI)

Authors look at measures of empathy, defense (which they predict will have a negative correlation to empathy) and self-reported SAT scores.

Details are given about the research design and methods beginning on p 96

Description of a scale to measure the accuracy of emotion identification (the Emotion Accuracy Research Scale - EARS) on p 99

Description of Present Reaction Scale (PRS) on p. 101

Empathy was measured using the 1972 Mehrabian-Epstein empathy scale and the 1983 Davis empathy scale. First scale gives one score, (Davis scale measures (a) emphatic concern (b) fantasy (c) personal distress (d) perspective taking

Defensiveness was measured using 1960 Marlow-Crowne scale of social desirability and 1972 Kohn scale of authoritarianism.

Defensiveness was hypothesized to correlate negatively with empathy since "defenses divert or foreshorten the processing necessary to make correct decisions about feeling." (I am not comfortable with this explanation, especially with the word "correct." I would simply say when we are feeling defensive our own survival is the most important thing on our minds.)

In the "results" section of the article reliability and technical issues are discussed starting on page 103. Then the findings are presented. These findings supported the authors' hypotheses about empathy, defensiveness and IQ as possible correlates to EI.

It was also found that there was no significant correlation between the target and group consensus reports. (p 108, 109)

I suspect this could be from the choices were presented and that more specific feeling words would help both targets and the group choose the "correct" feeling word. To me, the choices could definitely be improved. One problem I see is mixing feeling words (such as hostile, fearful) with actions, descriptions of situations and physical responses.

The fact that the people writing the stories did not agree with the group could suggests a problem in the design of the choices. Though, it could also be an indication that people simply often do not know how they feel.

Something else I notice in these choices is some are so different that the "correct" answers would seem obvious. How could any one not choose correctly between mad and delighted, for example? On the other hand some choices were not clear at all. For example, cheated and my teeth clenched, since it is possible one could clench one's teeth when they feel cheated. Also, someone could feel scared for someone else and want to withdraw themselves at the same time.

Examples of choices were: (p 98 and 100)

be by myself - kick something

stomping feet - alone

pretend everything is okay - threaten a fight

angry for someone else - help a friend

evade feeling - defiant

sharing another's anger - threatened with death

hostile - unhappy for another

fearful - apart from others

cheated - my teeth clenched

withdraw - scared for someone else

attacked - isolate myself

mad - delighted

dared - isolate myself

act as if no problem - lively

chuckling - angry for someone else

The authors suggest part of the reason the targets did not report their feelings the same way the group did is because the targets wanted to say things which were more "socially desirable." Therefore the authors suggest future researchers "make a distinction between how the target might say they feel, as contrasted with how they actually feel.

In the Future Research section of the article the authors say:

Earlier, we argued that the ability to predict emotions from thought will deliver a social advantage to an individual. High scorers on the EARS should therefore have advantages in certain life tasks.... In addition, we would predict they would have better, longer term intimate relationships, and better work histories within their occupation. If so, then it may be possible to educate those who are low in this skill to raise their ability levels and therefore better recognize the feelings of others,. Exactly how demanding such a learning process is remains unknown...It may well be worth the cost to obtain such positive social outcomes; the costs and benefits of such changes can be better evaluated by developing improved measures of emotional intelligence such as the one here, and studying the relation of such measures to the desired criteria.

Copy of an interview with John Mayer from Psychology Today, July/August 1999, Vol. 32 Issue 4, p20. *

Abstract: An interview with John Mayer discussing the claim that emotional intelligence (EI) is the key to success, about whether EI can be taught, about possible coercion at work, and about EI and negative states like depression.

Interviewd by Robert Epstein, Ph.D.

Title: The Key to Our Emotions

"Emotional intelligence" has been touted as the key to success in all
spheres of life: school, work, relationships. But according to Jack
Mayer, Ph.D., who originated the concept of EI with Yale psychologist
Peter Salovey, Ph.D., we still have a lot to learn about this skill.
Mayer, a psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire,
recently spoke with PT contributing editor Robert Epstein to clarify
the uses and meanings of El.

PT: What exactly is "emotional intelligence"?

JM: It's a group of mental abilities which help you recognize and
understand your own feelings and others'. Ultimately, El leads to the
ability to regulate your feelings.

PT: So this is an intellectual skill. It's not just having feelings,
but being able to understand what they mean.

JM: There are two sides to it. One side involves the intellect
understanding emotion. The other side involves emotion reaching into
the intellectual system and bringing about creative thoughts and
ideas. That second side is hardest to pin down in the lab. But we
believe it exists.

PT: Can emotional intelligence be learned?

JM: It doesn't make sense to me to talk about teaching an intelligence, although I know many people use that phrase. If emotional intelligence is like most other abilities, it is shaped partly by genetics and partly by environment. I like to talk about teaching knowledge. And I think it makes sense to talk about teaching emotional knowledge. I use this analogy: We don't say, "Can you learn math intelligence?" We say, "Can you learn algebra?" because we don't make our kids derive algebra from basic principles. We teach them about math as we understand it. It's the same thing with emotional intelligence. You don't have to rediscover all the rules of emotion on your own--no one has enough intelligence to do that. Rather, you can be taught what different feelings might mean and how they relate to yourself and others.

PT: What's wrong with the popular conception of emotional

JM: The popular presentation of EI is so different from the research
we've been doing. Emotional intelligence is often defined as a list of
traits such as optimism, persistence and warmth. Then, claims are made
about how important those are. I've become concerned about people who
are going through any sort of El program that is urging them to be as
cheerful, happy and energetic as possible at work. No doubt there are
a few people who are going to be helped that way, probably those
people who are already upbeat and optimistic. But I think it is
coercive to dictate how people are supposed to feel at work or other
places, especially since these qualities are unrelated to many
occupations. It's coercion without a genuinely useful agenda.

It is true that some salespeople can be helped by being optimistic and
extroverted and so forth. But that's not necessarily a requirement for
lawyers or teachers. And even in the case of salespeople, although
optimism does predict success, it is not all that is important or

PT: So does having EI guarantee that you're always in control of your

JM: I'd like to think that El is independent of emotional state. I
think you can be depressed and have high emotional intelligence,
because everyone has a very good reason to be sad or depressed at some
point or another. Given two people with negative emotions, I think the
person with EI will climb out of his or her funk over the long term,
though it won't necessarily be quick or easy. I would expect people to
be sad and distressed at times--it is part of the human condition--and
so emotionally intelligent people will be that way, too.

* (Please buy a copy of Psychology Today so they won't sue me for copying this!)