Self-Development: Emotional Intelligence and Literacy

Self-Development: Emotional Intelligence and Literacy


Emotional Intelligence

Similar to general intelligence, emotional intelligence (EI) is defined by Salovey and Mayer (1990), as the “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (p. 189).

Brain Neuroscience Half with Chip Half with Emotions

[ Image Description: A Brain With One Mechanical Side With Computer Chip and One Abstract, Paint-Splattered Side ] 



Athanasios S. Drigas and Chara Papoutsi co-published an article in 2018, "A New Layered Model on Emotional Intelligence," to provide resources that improve one's own misinterpretation of emotional reaction, failure to control emotional outbursts, or behaving in ways that deviate from society's structure that resort in causing harm. 

General intelligence incorporates abilities such as logic, planning, problem-solving, adaptation, abstract thinking, comprehension, language use, and learning. General intelligence is related to social capabilities, emotional adaptation, emotional sensitivity, empathy, practical intelligence, and incentives. 

EI focuses on self-control, impulse-regulation or the ability to delay pleasures, tolerance to frustration, and ego strengthening. 

Drigas and Papoutsi present the most discussed theories of intelligence, emotions, and emotional intelligence. They also share a 9-layer model (pyramid) of emotional intelligence that shows the levels a human must pass in order to reach the upper level of EI — emotional unity.

Emotional Intelligence Chart

[ Image Description: A Tri-Pie Chart for Emotional Intelligence at center; "Awareness," "Intentions," and "Choice" are listed as the units ]

Plato defined intelligence as a “learning tune," and with Aristotle, he introduced three components of mind and soul: intellect, sentiment, and will. The word “intelligence” comes from two Latin words: intellegentia and ingenium. The first word means “understanding” and “knowledge”. The second word means “natural predisposition” or “ability."




Charles Spearman developed the theory of the two factors of intelligence using a statistical method (data factor analysis) to show that mental testing would show patterns of intelligence. This theory has had two components: general intelligence, g, which affects performance in mental tasks and supports all intellectual tasks and intellectual abilities, as well as the specific factor, s, which is associated with unique capabilities that particular tests require, differing from test to test (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).

In 1938, American psychologist Louis L. Thurstone suggested that intelligence was not a general factor, but a small set of independent factors that were of equal importance. Thurstone formulated a model of intelligence centered on “Primary Mental Abilities” (PMAs) -- independent groups of intelligence that different individuals possess in varying degrees. Thurstone recognized seven primary cognitive abilities: (1) verbal understanding, the ability to understand the notions of words; (2) verbal flexibility, the speed with which verbal material is handled, such as in the production of rhymes; (3) number, the arithmetic capacity; (4) memory, the ability to remember words, letters, numbers, and images; (5) perceptual speed, the ability to quickly discern and distinguish visual details, and the ability to perceive the similarities and the differences between displayed objects; (6) inductive reasoning, the extraction of general ideas and rules from specific information; and (7) spatial visualization, the ability to visualize with the mind and handle objects in three dimensions (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).

Joy Paul Guilford expanded Thurstone’s model in SI (Structure of Intellect theory, 1955) which contains three dimensions: thought functions, thought content, and thought products. Guilford described 120 different kinds of intelligence and 150 possible combinations. He also discovered the important distinction between convergent and divergent thought. Convergent ability results in how well one follows the instructions, adheres to rules, and tries. Divergent ability decreases depending on whether or not one follows the instructions or if one has a lot of questions, and it usually means that one is doing the standard tests poorly (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).

The Cattell-Horn Gf-Gc and the Carroll Three-Stratum models help us understand the construction of human intelligence. They apply new methods of analysis and according to these analyses, there are two basic types of general intelligence: fluid intelligence (gf) and crystallized intelligence (gc). Fluid intelligence represents the biological basis of intelligence -- how fast someone thinks and how well they remember are elements of fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence increases in adulthood but declines in old age. Fluid intelligence enables a person to think and act quickly, to solve new problems, and to encode short-term memories. Crystallized intelligence is the knowledge and skills acquired through the learning process and through experience. Crystallized abilities come from learning and reading and are reflected in knowledge trials, general information, language use (vocabulary), and a wide variety of skills. As long as learning opportunities are available, crystallized intelligence may increase indefinitely during a person’s life (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).

American psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed an intelligence theory in the 1980s extending the traditional notion of intelligence. Sternberg observed that the mental tests that people are subjected to for intelligence measurements are often inaccurate and sometimes inadequate in predicting actual performance and success. There are people who do well on the tests but not so well in real situations. Likewise, the opposite occurred as well. According to Sternberg’s triarchic (three-part) theory of intelligence, intelligence consists of three main parts: analytical intelligence, creative intelligence, and practical intelligence. Analytical intelligence refers to problem-solving skills, creative intelligence includes the ability to handle new situations using past experiences and current skills, and practical intelligence refers to the ability to adapt to new situations and environments (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).

In 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner introduced his theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), which, at that time, was a controversial topic among psychologists. According to Gardner, the notion of intelligence as defined through the various mental tests was limited and did not depict the real dimensions of intelligence nor all the areas in which a person can excel and succeed. Gardner argued that there is not only one kind of general intelligence, but rather that there are multiple intelligences. Each one is part of an independent system in the brain. The theory outlines eight types of “smart”: Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”), Logical–mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”), Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”), Bodily–Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”), Musical intelligence (“music smart”), Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”), Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”), and Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”) (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).


Floating Meditating Girl With External Brain, Purple Hair, and Lime Green Sweater

[ Image Description: A Floating Meditating Girl With External Brain, Purple Hair, and Lime Green Sweater ]

Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not easy.

—Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics


Learning how to identity and regulate emotions helps to manage stress and becoming so overwhelmed that we cannot continue with important work and conversations.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and use emotions positively to manage anxiety, communicate well, empathize, overcome issues, solve problems, and manage conflicts. According to the Ability EI model, it is the perception, evaluation, and management of emotions in yourself and others (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).




The Pyramid of Emotional Intelligence: The Nine-Layer Model

9-Layer Emotional Literacy Pyramid Model


Emotional Stimuli

We receive tons of information from our environments at all times. This information is categorized by our brain to make sense of our surroundings and people. The cognitive mechanisms in our brains produce emotions by sensorial stimulus processing. Emotions are stimulated by information from the environment in order to inspire behavior that mediates the environment. This is why emotional stimuli is at the base of the pyramid (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).


Emotion Recognition

The next level of the pyramid after the emotional stimuli is the recognition of emotions simultaneously expressed at times. Emotion recognition includes the ability to accurately decode the expressions of others’ feelings, usually transmitted through non-verbal channels (i.e., the face, body, and voice). This ability is positively linked to social ability and interaction, as non-verbal behavior is a reliable source of information on the emotional states of others (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).



Socrates mentions in his guiding principle, “know thyself”. Aristotle also mentioned “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. These two ancient Greek aphorisms encompass the concept of self-awareness, a cognitive capacity, which is the following step in our pyramid after having conquered the previous two. Self-Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motives, and feelings [104]. As you develop self-awareness, you are able to change your thoughts which, in turn, allow you to change your emotions and eventually change your actions (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).



Once you have clarified your emotions and the way they can affect the situations and other people, you are ready to move to the EQ area of self-management. Self-management allows you to control your reactions so that you are not driven by impulsive behaviors and feelings. With self-management, you become more flexible, more extroverted, and receptive, and at the same time less critical on situations and less reactionary to people’s attitudes. Moreover, you know more about what to do. This does not mean that you must crush your negative emotions, but if you realize them, you can amend your behavior and make small or big changes to the way you react and manage your feelings even if the latter is negative. The second emotional intelligence (EQ) quadrant of self-management consists of nine key components: (1) emotional self-control; (2) integrity; (3) innovation and creativity; (4) initiative and prejudice to action; (5) resilience; (6) achievement guide; (7) stress management; (8) realistic optimism and (9) intentionality (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).


Social Awareness—Empathy—The Discrimination of Emotions

Since you have cultivated the ability to understand and control your own emotions, you are ready to move on to the next step of recognizing and understanding the emotions of people around you. Self-Management is a prerequisite for Social-Awareness. The Social Awareness cluster contains three competencies: Empathy, Organizational Awareness, Service Orientation. Being socially aware means you understand how you react to different social situations, and effectively modify your interactions with other people so that you achieve the best results. Empathy is the most important and essential EQ component of social awareness and is directly related to self-awareness. It is the ability to put oneself in another’s place (or “shoes”), to understand him as a person, to feel him and to take into account this perspective related to this person or with any person at a time (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).


Social Skills—Expertise

After having developed social awareness, the next level in the pyramid of emotional intelligence that helps raising our EQ is that of social skills. In emotional intelligence, the term social skills refers to the skills needed to handle and influence other people’s emotions effectively to manage interactions successfully. These abilities range from being able to tune into another person’s feelings and understand how they feel and think about things, to be a great collaborator and team player, to expertise at emotions of others and at negotiations. It is all about the ability to get the best out of others, to inspire and to influence them, to communicate and to build bonds with them, and to help them change, grow, develop, and resolve conflict. Social skills under the branch of emotional intelligence can include Influence, Leadership, Developing Others, Communication, Change Catalyst, Conflict Management, Building Bonds, Teamwork, and Collaboration (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).


Self-Actualization—Universality of Emotions

As soon as all six of these levels have been met, the individual has reached the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; Self-Actualization. Every person must have the will to move up to the level of self-actualization. Self-Actualization, according to Maslow [118–120], is the realization of personal potential, self-fulfillment, pursuing personal development and peak experiences. Self-actualization is a continual process of becoming, rather than a perfect state one reaches such as a ‘happy ever after." . Carl Rogers [122,123] also created a theory that included a “growth potential” whose purpose was to incorporate the “real self” and the “ideal self”, creating the “fully functioning person”. Self-actualization is one of the most important EI skills. It is a measure of your sense that you have a substantial personal commitment to life and that you are offering the gifts to your world that are most important for you. 



Maslow also proposed that people who have reached self-actualization will sometimes experience a state he referred to as “transcendence”. In the level of Transcendence, one helps others to self-actualize, find self-fulfillment, and realize their potential [127,128]. The emotional quotient is strong and those who have reached that level try to help other people understand and manage their own and others’ emotions too. Transcendence refers to the much higher and more comprehensive or holistic levels of human consciousness. Self-transcendence is the experience of seeing yourself and the world in a way that is not impeded by the limits of one’s ego identity. It involves an increased sense of meaning and relevance to others and to the world. In his perception of transcendence Plato affirmed the existence of absolute goodness that he characterized as something that cannot be described and it is only known through intuition.  Self-transcendence can be expressed in various ways, behaviors and perspectives like the exchange of wisdom and emotions with others, the integration of physical/natural changes of aging, the acceptance of death as part of life, the interest in helping others and learning about the world, the ability to leave your losses behind, and the finding of spiritual significance in life [133] (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).


Emotional Unity

Emotional unity is the final level in our pyramid of emotional intelligence. It is an intentionally positive oriented dynamic, in a sense that it aims towards reaching and keeping a dominance of emotions. In emotional unity one feels intense joy, peace, prosperity, and a consciousness of ultimate truth and the unity of all things. In a symbiotic world, what you do for yourself, you ultimately do for another. It all starts with our love for ourselves, so that we can then channel this important feeling to everything that exists around us. Not only in human beings, but also in animals, plants, oceans, rocks, and so forth. All it takes is to see the spark of life and miracle in everything and be more optimistic. The point is that somehow, we are all interconnected, and the more we delve deeper our heart and follow it, the less likely it will be for us to do things that can harm others or the planet in general. As Parmenides writes: “Being is ungenerated and indestructible, whole, of one kind and unwavering, and complete. Nor was it, nor will it be, since now it is, all together, one, continuous . . . ” (Drigas & Papoutsi, 2018).

Cognitive and Metacognitive Processes in the Emotional Intelligence Pyramid


Cognitive and Metacognitive Processes in the Emotional Intelligence Pyramid

Cognition encompasses processes such as attention, memory, evaluation, problem-solving language, and perception. Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge. Metacognition is defined as the ability to monitor and reflect upon one’s own performance and capabilities. It is the ability of individuals to know their own cognitive functions in order to monitor and to control their learning process. The idea of meta-cognition relies on the distinction between two types of cognitions: primary and secondary [146].

Metacognition includes a variety of elements and skills such as Metamemory, Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, and Self-Monitoring. Metacognition in Emotional Intelligence means that an individual perceives his/her emotional skills. Its processes involve emotional-cognitive strategies such as awareness, monitoring, and self-regulation [150]. Applying the meta-knowledge to socio-emotional contexts should lead to the opportunity to learn to correct one’s emotional errors and to promote the future possibility of a proper response to the situation while maintaining and cultivating the relationship [154].

In the pyramid of Emotional Intelligence, to move from one layer to another, cognitive and metacognitive processes occur.






Drigas, A., & Papoutsi, C. (2018). A New Layered Model on Emotional Intelligence. Behavioral Sciences, 8(5), 45. doi:10.3390/bs8050045 

O’Connor, P. J., Hill, A., Kaya, M., & Martin, B. (2019). The Measurement of Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Researchers and Practitioners. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01116 


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