THINK marshmallows, think Daniel Goleman. The Marshmallow Test for Emotional Intelligence as reported by Goleman in his book “Emotional Intelligence” pushed him to global prominence via covers stories in Time and Fortune and a television appearance in “Oprah.” Emotional intelligence is a set of human competencies which includes self-awareness, management of emotions, self-motivation, empathy, and handling of relationships, Goleman contends these are better indicators of life success than IQ.
The test, as administered to 4 years old at the preschool in Stanford University in the US, goes like this. An adult leaves one marshmallow with a child and offers him two choices: the child can “eat the marshmallow immediately” or “receives two marshmallows” if he waits until after the adult runs an errand and returns. Some kids chose to eat the one marshmallow immediately, others waited until the adult returned to get the two-marshmallow reward.
The children who participated in the test were tracked down as they were graduating from high school. And a surprising correlation came out: those children who had waited patiently at age four for the two marshmallows were far superior as students to those who had eaten the one marshmallow immediately. This suggested that the ability to delay gratification, a dimension of emotional intelligence, mattered greatly to their mastery of cognitive content of knowledge. This study was reported in Yuichi Shoda, Walter Mischel and Philip K. Peake’s, “Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-regulatory Competencies from Preschool Delay of Gratification,” development psychology in 1990. But this astonishing piece of information was only brought to worldwide attention when it was written in Goleman’s book.
By painstakingly putting together numerous brain and behavioral research and scanning the societal horizon through media reports, Goleman weaves together a powerful story on Emotional Intelligence as it impacts on the home, school and work life. He ingenuously uses stories of tragedy and inspiration that make mind-boggling topics as neuroscience and psychology gripping reading.
None of the revelations in his book are new. The model of emotional intelligence was in fact first proposed by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in “Emotional Intelligence: Imagination, Cognition and Personality” which was published in 1990. But Goleman lays no claim to originality for the concepts in his book, dutifully crediting the many psychologists, researchers and reporters who did the groundbreaking work. But what’s original is how Goleman put together pieces of the psychology puzzle to create a colorful and textured landscape picture of the nuances of human behavior with all its strengths and foibles. For this, he can be considered as a shaman of psychology and journalism. How he has been able to do this may be traced to his credentials. A psychologist foremost (he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, personality and development from Harvard University), he has been writing on behavioral and brain sciences for the New York Times since 1984.
Since its release in September 1995 in the US, the book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for about a year with over 600,000 copies sold worldwide. The response to the book has been great in the education community.
Business Takes Notice
However, it is only recently that business has been taking due notice of the possible powerful applications of the book’s concepts to revitalize the work life of American workers besieged with prospects of downsizing, reengineering and employment instability.
The chapter in the book applying to business, appropriated titled “Managing with Heart,” though thin, delves on sensitive issues bothering American businesses today (which may be burgeoning issues in Philippine business too): issues if discrimination, arrogant bosses, destructive criticism, lack of teamwork and a host of other emotional landmines confronting workers corporations today. Goleman illustrates with so many workplace stories that the abilities of emotional intelligence are crucial workplace competencies. The lack of it, especially on the management level, can bring an organization down since leadership is basically relating with people. He cited a study a 108 managers and white-collar workers done by Robert Baron., a psychologist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute whom he interviewed in 1990 wherein inept criticism was the leading reason (ahead of mistrust, personality’s struggles, and disputes over power and pay) for conflict on the job.
Drumbeats in organizations have been batting for team spirit and teamwork. In this chapter, Goleman provides added value to this campaign. He wrote that a study made by Wendy Williams and Robert Sternberg on “Group Intelligence: Why Some Groups Are Better Than Others” published to intelligence in 1988 showed that the success of a group depends not on the total of the individual IQs of its members but on how well the members of the group worked with each other. This finding was based on an experiment wherein people were asked to take part in groups that were tasked to come up with an advertising campaign for a sweetener. The groups that harmonized better came up with a better output than those that didn’t.
The book offers a lot more than this chapter on the application of emotional intelligence on business. It starts with a formidable task: explaining what may well be the basics of neuroscience. This is narrated in so interesting a manner that Goleman may just have strated the use of new buzzwords in management circles such as limbic system, neocortex and amygdale. The application of emotional intelligence in other aspects of life such as marriage, parenting and health are paradigm shifters for those who want to put more meaning into their lives.
Goleman, the book, is truly life-changing. Meeting Goleman, the man, is intriguing. Goleman comes across as an empathic person. Asked to rate himself on emotional intelligence, he gave himself a rating of B or B+. Goleman promises more exciting developments in the field of emotional intelligence. He is currently pursuing further research on emotional intelligence competencies in the workplace and how companies can train their employees in this area. For Filipinos who are inspired by EQ thinking and Goleman, they can try reading his earlier books such as “Mind Body Medicine,” “The Creative Spirit,” “Vital Lies,” “Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception” and “The Meditative Mind.” Or meet him in Manila April of next year.
Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer June 2, 1997.
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