Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

On the popularity of emotional intelligence: An examination of contributing factors

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Scott Highhouse (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Margaret Brooks (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Mary Hare (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

David Jackson (Other)


The research-practice gap continues to be a vexing issue in industrial-organizational psychology generally, and in the area of personnel selection specifically. Selection methods with questionable empirical support often enjoy popularity with hiring managers and lay people, while alternative methods with substantial research support are often underutilized. Emotional intelligence (EI) tests fall into the former category. In an effort to better understand the popularity of EI, this study used an experimental framework to assess the role that three key variables associated with the construct—the construct label, peoples’ views about the malleability of traits, and the emotional labor content of jobs—might play in driving support for the use of EI tests in hiring environments. Evidence was found for the influence of emotional labor demands on reactions toward the use of an EI test in a simulated hiring scenario; the construct label used, and views about trait malleability, were not found to have an effect on these reactions. These findings suggest that the increased popularity EI has enjoyed in recent years may be due to the perceived relevance the construct has for service-sector jobs and other occupations that involve a high degree of social interaction. Future research should examine alternative aspects of emotional labor, such as requirements for positive or negative emotions, or emotional labor demands in simple versus complex jobs, in an effort to better understand when EI is perceived to be most relevant in organizational settings.