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A Timeline of Social and Emotional Intelligence

A brief history of social and emotional intelligence to bring you up to speed...

1848: Phineas Gage – Emotional Center

In Antonio R. Damasio’s book Descartes’ Error he describes the case of Phineas Gage, a construction foreman who in 1848 survived a freak accident in which a 3 ½ foot iron rod passed through his head. Although Gage’s intellectual capacity was not affected, his emotional center (the prefrontal cortex) was damaged. He was no longer able to make good decisions since he lacked his emotional center.

1875: Charles Darwin – The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animal

Charles Darwin made the observation that in man and animals, the expression of emotions was similar. He was the first to posit that emotions were universal. Although the idea was dismissed by anthropologist Margaret Mead who believed that the expression of emotions changed from culture to culture, we now understand (through the work of people like Paul Ekman, author of Emotions Revealed) that emotions among humans are universal although the cultural display of emotions is not.

1936: Robert Thorndike – Social Intelligence

During World War II, Robert Thorndike worked as a psychometrician and was an Air Force Major. At the time, testing for pilots and aircrews was ineffective. Thorndike’s work included analyzing multiple abilities and developing more subtle techniques to test aircrew performance.

1940: David Wechsler, Ph.D. – Nonintellectual Intelligence

David Wechsler is best known for having developed tests that measure intelligence, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). He was responsible for developing the 100 point scale in intelligence testing. However, he also acknowledged and paid attention to the non-intellective abilities such as affective, personal, and social factors. He proposed that those non-intellective abilities were largely responsible for predicting success in life.

1972: Paul Ekman – Study of Emotion in the Human Face

In 1965, Paul Ekman was a graduate student and he received a grant to do cross-cultural studies of nonverbal behavior. He started the project believing that expression and gestures were something we learned from those around us. He asked a revered group of research psychologists and cultural anthropologists for advice, including people such as Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Edward Hall, Ray Birdwhistell, and Charles Osgood.

Ekman is reported to have remembered that Charles Darwin had made the opposite claim, but reportedly did not read Darwin’s book, because he was so convinced that Darwin was wrong. Ekman travelled to Papua, New Guinea and discovered that what Charles Darwin said was true. He went on to map all of the emotions on the face in work that is often referred to in police investigations, by human resources interviewers, and others. His work was also relied upon heavily in the short-lived TV show “Lie to Me.”

1972: Candace Pert – Molecules of Emotion

Candace Pert wrote the book Molecules of Emotion and was the first to discover that emotions create a chemical change in the body that affects our health.

1973: Peter Sifneos – Alexithymia

Alexithymia literally means no words for emotion. In 1973, psychotherapist Peter Sifneos found that psychosomatic patients tended to have documentable constriction in emotional functioning, a “poverty of fantasy,” and an inability to find appropriate words to describe emotions.

1983: Howard Gardner – Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner formulated a list of seven intelligences. The first two have been evaluated and applied in terms of education and schooling, the next three often applied to the arts, and the last two often used in terms of our ability to work with others, and then to understand ourselves.

o Linguistic intelligence (involving language abilities)

o Logical-mathematical intelligence (involving analysis and math skills)

o Musical intelligence

o Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (involving mental and physical co-ordination)

o Spatial intelligence (involving pattern recognition skills)

o Interpersonal intelligence (involving the ability to work with others)

o Intrapersonal intelligence (involving the ability to understand oneself)

1983: Robert Sternberg – Non-Academic Intelligence

Psychologist Robert Sternberg believes that the focus on specific types of measurable mental abilities is too narrow. He believes that studying intelligence in this way leads to an understanding of only one part of intelligence and that this part is only seen in people who are school smart or book smart.

1983: Reuven Bar-On – Coined Term EQ and Created EQ-i®

Reuven Bar-On is a pioneer and internationally acknowledged expert in emotional intelligence. He has been involved in defining, measuring, and applying this concept since 1980, and was responsible for the term EQ as well as creating the EQ-i®, which is the first measure of emotional intelligence to be published. He co-edited the Handbook of Emotional Intelligence in 2000. His work has been described in encyclopedias, books, and articles.

1989: Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer – Emotional Intelligence as an Intelligence

In 1990, two American psychologists (Dr. Jack Mayer and Dr. Peter Salovey) were having a conversation about Gary Hart, a current political candidate who (although brilliant) seemed to consistently mess up because he couldn’t manage his emotions. He would misread situations and react in ways that did not help his political career. They purported that if there was a cognitive intelligence or IQ then there must be an emotional intelligence (sometimes known as EQ). They wrote a white paper article on emotional intelligence based on their findings.

1995: Daniel Goleman – Book on Emotional Intelligence

With a Ph.D. from Harvard, Dr. Daniel Goleman was working as a science writer for the New York Times. He chanced upon the whitepaper article written by Dr. Mayer and Dr. Salovey and he was intrigued by the concept.

Goleman sums up his position like this: “…emotional and social skills give people advantages in realms where such abilities make the most difference, like love and leadership. EI trumps IQ in ‘soft’ domains, where intellect matters relatively little for success. That said, another such arena where EI matters more than IQ is in performance at work, when comparing people with roughly the same educational backgrounds (like MBAs or accountants) – which is exactly what goes on in human resource departments of companies every day.”(Source: This means that in a competitive marketplace, and where intelligence levels are equal, EQ can be the determining factor for success.

1997: MHS – Publishes Bar-On EQ-i®

In 1997, Multi-Health Services (MHS) published the first fully validated test on emotional intelligence that was developed by Dr. Reuven Bar-On. Since that time many tests have been developed. The Bar-On EQ-i still remains the most widely used and highly validated test of social and emotional functioning.

2001: MSCEIT is published

The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is the first published EI ability-based test. It uses the Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS) to evaluate the four branches of emotional intelligence.

Defining Social & Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, who we just heard about was the co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). He went on to add the social aspect of behavior as a complement to the emotional. His definition expanded to:

Social and emotional intelligence involves understanding your feelings and behaviors, as well as those of others, and applying this knowledge to your interactions and relationships.

In his work with CASEL he developed five interrelated sets of Social and Emotional Competencies:


o knowing your emotions, strengths and challenges, and importantly knowing how your emotions affect your behavior.


o knowing how to control your behaviors and moods, and setting and working toward goals.

Social awareness

o the ability to understand and respect the perspectives of others, and to apply this knowledge to interactions with people from diverse backgrounds.

Good relationship skills

o knowing how to establish and keep rewarding and positive relationships with friends, family and others from a wide range of backgrounds.

Responsible decision making

o ability to identify the impact of your choices on yourself and others, and using empathy, relationship skills and self- and social-awareness to make decisions.

The important thing for us is that, unlike IQ, these competencies can be learned. No matter your age you can influence your social and emotional self!

Research suggests that those with strong social and emotional intelligence are more likely to contribute to a positive work environment.


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