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A Short History of
Emotional Intelligence

The concepts of emotional work and emotional labour were first introduced by Arlie Hochschild in 1983. Six years later research began looking at emotional expression and its importance to organisational psychology.


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In 1990, Peter Salovey and John Mayer coined the term "emotional intelligence". The two psychologists concluded seven years later that emotional intelligence comprised four mental processes, as shown in the table below.

EI Mental Processes 

Perception Assimilation

Perceiving & identifying emotions

Integrating emotions into thought patterns

Understanding Managing

Understanding one’s own & others’ emotions


In 1995, emotional intelligence was popularised by the psychologist, Daniel Goleman, with his easily digestible books on the topic, which have become international best sellers. In 1998, Goleman published Working with Emotional Intelligence in response to heightened interest from the business community. It was from here that the term "EQ" became a popular phrase.

Goleman’s research on emotional intelligence in the workplace showed that emotional competence results in high organisational performance. Goleman’s framework for emotional competence is divided into two categories. Firstly, personal competence, which determines how we manage ourselves. This includes self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation. The second category, social competence, looks at how we manage our relationships and includes empathy and social skills with a purpose.

"We first make our habits, then our habits make us." - John Dryden

Meanwhile, another well-known psychologist, Martin Seligman, was researching the core characteristics that enable people to bounce back from adversity or keep going under pressure. His work has proven that our level of optimism is the key differentiator between people who consistently outperform others of similar competence. When the going gets tough, the tough get going - and research has proven they tend to be optimists.

Seligman identified the traits that make people optimists. These traits come naturally to some people. But, for those that aren’t optimistic, with guidance and practice this can be changed.

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