Emotional Intelligence | Stevehein.com * xx check my writing about marshmallow, delayed gratific


This is an arrticle from the San Francisco Chronicle in 1995, with my comments.

In summary, the author went to a presentation given by Goleman and then wrote about it. The presentation was part of Goleman's promotional tour for his 95 book. The author simply echoed what Golemand said, without giving any critique of it, and without checking to verify the claims Goleman was making. This is good example of how so many myths about EI got spread around the world.

S. Hein

Original Article My comments
It's 8 o'clock on a balmy Monday morning, and the view from the Irvine Foundation's 17th floor offices at One Market Plaza is stupendous. The blue surface of the bay is so still and glassy it could be a swimming hole of bygone years. But then any notion of playing hooky to go swimming fails the "impulse control'' test Daniel Goleman is discussing at the far end of the conference room.

Goleman, a psychologist and science writer, is author of the surprise best-seller ``Emotional Intelligence'' (Bantam; 352 pages; $23.95), a fascinating book about new discoveries in brain research that prove that emotional stability is more important than IQ in determining an individual's success in life. (1)

One of the highlights of the book that Goleman explains to this audience of foundation leaders, educators and grants donors is a test administered 30 years ago that Goleman calls "The Marshmallow Challenge.''

In this experiment, 4-year-old children were individually called into a room at Stanford University during the 1960s; there a kindly man gave a marshmallow to each of them and said they could eat the marshmallow right now, or wait for him to come back from an errand, at which point they would get two marshmallows. (2)


Goleman gets everyone chuckling as he describes watching a film of the preschoolers while they waited for the nice man to come back. Some of them covered their eyes or rested their heads on their arms so they wouldn't have to look at the marshmallow, or played games or sang to keep their thoughts off the single marshmallow and wait for the promised double prize. Others -- about a third of the group -- simply watched the man leave and ate the marshmallow within seconds.

What is startling about this test, submits Goleman, is its diagnostic power: (3) A dozen years later the same children were tracked down as adolescents and tested again, and "the emotional and social difference between the grab-the-marshmallow preschoolers and their gratification-
delaying peers was dramatic,'' Goleman says. The ones who had resisted the marshmallow were clearly more socially competent than the others. "They were less likely to go to pieces, freeze or regress under stress, or become rattled and disorganized when pressured; they embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up even in the face of difficulties; they were self-reliant and confident, trustworthy and dependable.''

The third or so who grabbed the marshmallow were "more likely to be seen as shying away from social contacts, to be stubborn and indecisive, to be easily upset by frustrations, to think of themselves as unworthy, to become immobilized by stress, to be mistrustful or prone to jealousy, to overreact with a sharp temper,'' and so forth.


And all because of a lone marshmallow? In fact, Goleman explains, it's all because of a lone neuron only recently discovered that bypasses the neocortex, where rational decisions are made, and goes straight to the
amygdala, or emotional center of the brain, where quicker, more primitive
``fight or flight'' responses occur -- and, tellingly, are stored for future use.
The more that emotional memories involving temper, frustration, anxiety,
depression, impulse and fear pile up in early adolescence, the more the
amygdala can ``hijack the rest of the brain,'' Goleman says, ``by flooding it
with strong and inappropriate emotions, causing us to wonder later, `Why
did I overreact?' ''

But if the emotions stored are those of restraint, self-awareness,
self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy, hope and optimism, we become
endowed with an ``emotional intelligence'' that serves rather than enslaves
us for the rest of our lives.

The bad news, says Goleman, is that a widely acclaimed and disturbing
study out of the University of Vermont has shown a ``decline in emotional
aptitude among children across the board.'' Rich or poor, East Coast or West
Coast, inner city or suburb, children today are more vulnerable than ever to
anger, depression, anxiety -- what Goleman calls a massive ``emotional
malaise.'' The result is that ``boys who can't control their emotions later
commit violent crime; girls who can't control emotion don't get violent, they
get pregnant.''

The good news, however, involves another recent discovery -- that the
amygdala takes a long time to mature, around 15 or 16 years, which means
to Goleman that ``emotional intelligence can be taught, not only in the
home but perhaps more importantly, in school.'' He points to two key
programs in the Bay Area that are ``miraculous'' -- the Nueva Learning
Center in Hillsborough, where classes such as ``Self Science'' show children
how to identify, name and monitor emotions -- ``your own and those that
erupt in relationships''; and the Child Development Project in Oakland, where
lessons in ``emotional literacy'' are ``woven into the fabric of existing
school life.''

Goleman's own story is as intriguing as his book. The author or co-author of
nearly a dozen other books involving brain research and behavior, Goleman
experienced steady but modest sales until ``Emotional Intelligence'' hit the
stores a few weeks ago and -- bam -- the cover of Time (and soon of Forbes),
``Oprah Winfrey'' and ``20/20,'' huge sales and almost instant appearance
on the top of best-seller lists throughout the country.

``The attention is unbelievable,'' he says. ``Of course we can all learn
something about our own emotions, but Oprah focused on one key point
when she said the book shows `you're smarter than you've been told all your
life.' She is someone who is obviously emotionally intelligent and successful
because of it, and she wasn't the smartest person in class.

``But I think the book also points out the real strength in what has been a
feminine preserve in this culture. Girls are raised to be emotionally astute
and perceptive, but sons learn little about emotions except how to control
anger. Women are absolutely more empathic than men on average, but
they've felt powerless to bring up the idea of emotions as a serious topic.''

The irony, Goleman muses, is that if he had written a book about women
and emotion, school reform, emotion-based leadership in business or child
psychology, ``the book wouldn't have gotten much attention. As it happens
this is a book about all those things, but women and children and school
reform are marginalized in this society. So I come along with a lot of
scientific data that says, `Hey, this stuff is consequential'; and maybe some
doors are opening in our society.''

1. This statement is misleading when it says the book presents discoveries in research that "prove that emotional stability is more important than IQ in determining an individual's success in life." The book does not prove this at all. Goleman does a very good job of trying to convince us that research proves this, but this is not the same as the research actually proving it. Besides, notice that the author uses the term "emotional stability." This is another term to add to the list of terms which Goleman and others somewhat carelessly and irresponsibly interchange with emotional intelligence. Other terms are emotional skills, emotional maturity, emotional knowledge, emotional literacy. Emotional stability is obviously not the same thing as emotional intelligence. And even if the author of this article said the research proves that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ this would also be blatantly wrong. For one thing no one was doing any research on anything called emotional intelligence and success when Goleman published his 1995 book. Any check of the academic literature will quickly confirm this.

2. I have written about this elsewhere on my site, but here I will just say that in all my reading of the academic literature, no one else has said that the ability to delay gratification is an indication of innate emotional intelligence.

For example, in Mayer and Saloveys 1997 detailed definition of EI they never use either and of the following words "delay" "impulse" or "gratification". Neither, by the way, do they use the terms "emotionally stable" or "emotional stability" See my file on their model of EI

The marshmallow test is interesting, but like so much of what Goleman wrote about, it is not related to emotional intelligence.

3. Here the author misuses the word "diagnostic". This little test

I am not finished reviewing the article..What is in red is something I am going to critique later..

Steve Feb 2006


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