Emotional Intelligence Research Summary

A great deal of research has been done on this topic, and continues to be done. There are roughly two dozen studies that are repeatedly cited as excellent examples by leading EI researchers and writers. Ten of them are highlighted here.

If you want more, your search engine is your friend. Make sure you have plenty of free time – there’s a lot out there!  And you will find that much of the research is “proving” things that you already know – for instance, that nurses with high EI get better feedback reports from patients, or that employees who work for managers with high EI report feeling more valued.

Study #1 – The Somerville School Study

  • 450 boys in Massachusetts were given simple tests to measure their ability to handle frustration and to control emotions. They were also given traditional  IQ tests. Two thirds were from very low income families. One third had IQ’s below 90.
  • 40 years after this data was collected, they were contacted and evaluated for how successful they had become at work.
  • The Result: IQ was irrelevant to success.  What was relevant? Their ability to control emotion, handle frustration, and get along with other people.

Study #2 – University of California, Berkeley Ph. D. Students

  • 80 graduate science students underwent a battery of personality tests, interviews, and IQ tests
  • 40 years later their career success was evaluated by experts in their fields.
  • The Result: emotional & social abilities were 4 times more important than IQ

 Study #3 – Hay McBer Study of 121 Global Corporations

  • 181 positions were studied across each of these firms
  • Individual success was evaluated, as well as the firms’ competency models for predicting success
  • The Results:
    • Emotional Intelligence predicts 90% of success
    • Only one non-EI trait was a predictor of success: Pattern Recognition
    • In the firm’s competency models, 33% of the competencies related to technical skills, 67% related to EI skills
    • For scientists and engineers, analytical thinking ranks 3rd.

Study #4 – A Premier Beverage Firm

  • A problem: 50% of their division presidents were being removed within 2 years for poor performance
  • Addressed it as a hiring problem, and shifted to hiring based largely on EI criteria
  • The Results:
    • Reduced the attrition rate to 6%
    • 87% of those hired using EI criteria performed in the top third
    • Those hired using EI criteria surpassed their goals by 15-20%

Study #5 – US News and World Report Survey

  •  Asked businesses: what is the cause of the failure that leads to people being fired?
  • The Result: 90% of those fired were for attitudinal or relationship problems

Study #6 – Center for Creative Leadership

  • Evaluated the reasons for executive derailment (one of CCL’s focus areas)
  • The Result: The dominant reasons were inadequate team skills, poor interpersonal relationships, and inflexibility with change

Study #7 – Schmidt & Judiesch, from the Journal of Applied Psychology

  • Study title: “Individual Differences in Output Variability as a Function of Job Complexity”
  • Evaluated the impact of high emotional intelligence on productivity
  • The Results:
    • Medium complexity jobs (sales clerks, mechanics) – High EI = 85% more productive than an average performer
    • High complexity jobs (doctors, engineers) – High EI = 127% more productive

Study #8 – Hay McBer Study of IBM sales rep hires

  • One group of sales reps hired using IQ and experience, another hired using EI criteria
  • The Result: those hired on EI criteria are 90% more likely to successfully complete their training and become a sales rep than the other group

Study #9 – Porras and Anderson, published in Organizational Dynamics

  • Study was titled: “Improving managerial effectiveness through modeling-based training”
  • Manufacturing superintendents were given EI training
  • The Results:
    • Lost time accidents were down 50%
    • Average formal grievances dropped from 15 to 3 per year
    • Plant exceeded its productivity goals by $250,000 that year

Study #10 – Consulting firm Egon Zehnder

  • Study was on the value of EI in executive success
  • Included executives in firms in Latin America, Japan, and Germany, with nearly identical results in each culture
  • The Results: Strength in EI was a significantly larger predictor of success than high IQ or experience level; executives had high EI in 74% of the successes and only 24% of the failures