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What is Social Intelligence?

By Venus D.
Updated May 23, 2024
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According to psychologist E. L. Thorndike, who founded the study of social intelligence, the term should be defined as the ability "to act wisely in human relations." Thorndike felt it was not really possible to measure this type of intelligence, unlike abstract intelligence or mechanical intelligence. Other psychologists, however, disagreed with this assessment.

There are several methods for testing this form of intelligence, including the George Washington Social Intelligence Test (GWSIT). The GWSIT, however, was deemed unable to measure it accurately because of its heavy reliance on words and expressions. As a result, the test is more appropriate for the measurement of abstract intelligence. Another test is the Vineland Social Maturity Scale, which measures intelligence by social or mental age and social quotient, which is intelligence as determined by social age divided by chronological age. The weakness of this test lies in the fact that it takes into account irrelevant factors, such as motor skills and linguistic skills, which cloud the measurement.

The difficulty in accurately deciphering social intelligence through tests is due to the many components it encompasses. One model consists of three components: social sensitivity, the inferences a person makes while socializing and the role one plays within a group; social insight, including social comprehension, psychological insight, and moral judgment; and social communications including social problem solving. Several other models and theories have been suggested as well.

In a book entitled Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman explores the connection between people's social interactions and their health. He elaborates upon a brain-to-brain link that encourages humans to connect with another. According to this theory, a good relationship might have the ability to fortify the body’s immune system, while a stressful relationship might cause digestive problems. Such a link can further clarify the mechanics involved in a teacher inspiring his students or the bond between a mother and a daughter.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon252278 — On Mar 05, 2012

Why do I suspect that all three of the posts below me were written by trolls, or by a rather devious PR team? Is it because:

1. They all introduce the book as if it's only being included in the discussion.

2. All are overly optimistic.

3. All have perfect grammar and punctuation, a rarity online.

Yes, I call shenanigans.

By comfyshoes — On Nov 07, 2010

The social intelligence book written by Daniel Goleman is a social intelligence book that explores the relationship between social intelligence and the biology of leadership.

His findings indicate that leadership skills can be learned and developed. Those with the highest levels of adaptability, initiative and empathy often succeed in virtually every position that they take on. This is what is referred to as Goleman intelligence.

By cafe41 — On Nov 07, 2010

SauteePan-Working with emotional intelligence or Goleman intelligence is a skill that you can develop and have control over.

Unlike your I.Q. which is predetermined, developing your emotional social intelligence leads to a more productive and satisfying work environment. People generally like to work with other happy and motivated people. It is also important to understand that social intelligence and leadership go hand in hand.

A leader that is technically brilliant at the mechanics of the job but lacks empathy and the appropriate social emotional intelligence will often have a high level of employee turnover. In addition, if the manager does not have a true assessment of his or her abilities then more than likely he or she will fail as a manager.

The power of social intelligence is so great that it will determine the likelihood of success. Managers with a high degree of emotional social intelligence usually develop working environments in which people work in a cohesive unit.

By SauteePan — On Nov 07, 2010

Working with emotional intelligence is more effective than any other measure. According to Daniel Goldman, who wrote, “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationship” developing people skills and ones ability to relate to others will offer more success than simply your I.Q.

In fact, he states that one's I.Q. contributes to from 4% to 25% of the job performance. He believes that people that have self control and demonstrate initiative, motivation, and accurate self assessment will have a high degree of success in leadership positions.

People that can develop others, deal with conflict resolution effectively and build bonds with others are worth their weight in gold. Such a leader inspires us and relates a certain level of optimism that is infectious.

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