Emotional Intelligence as a Credible Psychological Construct: Real but Elusive – A Conceptual Interpretation of Meta-Analytic Investigation Outcomes

Jay M. Finkelman, Ph.D.




Emotional intelligence was thought to fill a gap that otherwise could not be explained by less encumbered traditional intelligence measures, and hence, its almost immediate popularity and appeal. The research, however, has been rather equivocal and suffers from poor operational definitions of the dependent variables and limited external validity. The results of a recent meta-analysis (Joseph, et al., 2014) demonstrated that the mixed EI measures overwhelmingly overlapped with traditional psychological constructs including: Ability EI, Self-Efficacy, Self-rated Performance, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, Extraversion, and General Mental Ability. The apparent inconsistency of the relative predictive utility of disparate measures of EI   does not preclude its consideration as a heuristic explanatory construct in organizational leadership and industrial-organizational psychology. It is reasonable to maintain that a unique predictive combination of previously known variables may still constitute a viable new construct – such as EI. Emotional Intelligence represents a heuristic explanatory device that makes a positive contribution to our understanding of organizational development and leadership behavior. Emotional intelligence, for all its ambiguity and measurement challenges, still represents a viable construct in leadership theory and organizational development. EI does much to explain why certain individuals are more effective than others in business and in life. The mere fact that the various components of EI can be predicted by more discrete and traditional measures in no way serves to diminish or undermine the utility and integrity of the concept.


Keywords: emotional intelligence, leadership theory, organizational development, meta-analysis, copyrights & patents, psychological constructs 

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