Scientists Find Developing This Skill Is Crucial For Success

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She received a B.S. journalism and a B.A. in english literature from Boston University.
Scientists Find Developing This Skill Is Crucial For Success

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Emotional intelligence seems to keep coming up in the study of our productivity, relationships, and success, and a new study has added another link to a growing field. An analysis of international data found that higher emotional intelligence is correlated with more academic success for students of all ages.

What did the researchers find?

The study was conducted at the University of Sydney and published online by the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin today. The researchers concluded that control and understanding of emotions is correlated with academic performance.

"Although we know that high intelligence and a conscientious personality are [...] necessary for academic success," said Carolyn MacCann, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Sydney and lead author of the study, "our research highlights a third factor, emotional intelligence, that may also help students succeed." 

This study is the first comprehensive investigation into the correlation between emotional intelligence and academic performance, and the broader area of research into emotional intelligence has only become popular in the last 20 years.

Using data collected between 1998 and 2019, MacCann and her team found that students with higher emotional intelligence tended to get higher test scores and grades. The data included students from elementary school through college, from across 27 countries.

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Why does emotional intelligence matter for success?

In regard to why this correlation exists, MacCann said that "Students with higher emotional intelligence may be better able to manage negative emotions, such as anxiety, boredom and disappointment, that can negatively affect academic performance."

The researchers also pointed out that skills associated with having higher emotional intelligence, like communication and language skills, directly translate to some areas of academic performance, particularly in the humanities.

"It's not enough to be smart and hardworking," she said. "Students must also be able to understand and manage their emotions to succeed at school."

With this in mind, the study is careful to point out that rather than using this knowledge to isolate students who have lower emotional intelligence, it should be used as evidence for adding additional support and training to the school system.

"Programs that integrate emotional skill development into the existing curriculum would be beneficial," said MacCann. "Increasing skills for everyone—not just those with low emotional intelligence—would benefit everyone."

What about outside of academics?

While this meta-analysis report focuses on students, the findings showed that the association remained the same across students of all ages. The time spent elaborating on how these connections work also revealed ways that these patterns may manifest in professional environments.

Key components of emotional intelligence called out in the study included management of social surroundings and capacity to manage negative emotions and distractions. These skills come into play in the workplace as well. The area of emotional intelligence's impact in the workplace is much more thoroughly investigated, with findings indicating that it's not just helpful in predicting success. Emotional intelligence has gone as far as becoming one of the most desired traits in hiring.

The science seems to suggest that increasing your emotional intelligence is an effective way to increase your personal, academic, and even career success. Seeing as it can also help improve your personal relationships, your EQ can be a serious powerhouse for improving your daily life, whether you're in school or not.

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