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Emotional Intelligence and Academic Performance Relationship

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 3488 words Published: 13th Apr 2018

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Assessing the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Academic Performance on medical students

  • Jaunoo Sharfaa



Since the year 1880 up till the last century, conventional means of success in life such as academic achievement, economic success, even greater health, and longevity were believed to belong only to individuals having a high Intelligence Quotient, commonly known as IQ. Students, especially, medical students who scored higher on IQ tests were the considered as the most intelligent ones. However, new research proved otherwise-it has been found that academic success doesn’t only depend on IQ, but rather on a combination of IQ, motivation and hard work which need to be harnessed (The American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011).

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Today, along with the global evolution of the education system which prioritizes intrapersonal abilities, adaptability, and stress management, a new concept has emerged- that of Emotional Intelligence. According to Daniel Goleman (1995(a)), IQ represents only 20% in the lifetime success of a person and is highly influenced by Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to identify, understand, control and respond to human emotions which consequently help individuals adapt better socially and promote better performance in all aspects of life (Parker, Taylor, & Bagby, 2001).

The Theory of Performance (ToP) develops and brings forward six foundational concepts to form a framework that can be used to explain performance as well as performance improvements. To perform is to produce valuable results. A performer can be an individual or a group of people engaging in a collaborative effort. Developing performance is like a ladder, and level of performance describes the position (low, average or high) in that ladder. Current level of performance depends holistically on 6 components: context, level of knowledge, levels of skills, level of identity, personal factors, and fixed factors (Don Elger,2007).Studies analyzing the relationship between academic performance and emotional intelligence have produced multifarious results. As such, a study by Schutte et al. (1998) concluded that undergoing emotional intelligence test at the beginning of the academic year caused a better average score at the end of the year. Furthermore, a small, but significant relationship between academic success, by means if grade point average, and three on five constituents of emotional intelligence, upon use of the Goleman scale (Rozell, Pettijohn, & Parker (2002), Goleman (1995, 1998))

Emotional Intelligence contributes significantly to academic success with legion positive interconnection (Grace, 2012). Students with a higher emotional intelligence (EI) are more likely to comply socially and manage their time conveniently as compared to those having a low EI, known to be more susceptible to deviant and harmful behavior (Pau, et al., 2004).As a matter of fact, learners possessing a high emotional intelligence prove to be more obsolete, learn faster, behave more properly and regulate their feelings appropriately (Ghosh and Gill (2003).

The accelerated development of the era is challenging students to the wave of worries and stress. According to a study conducted of children of 4years of age, the ability to control impulses resulted in good academic performance and social skills during adolescence (Shoda, Mischel, and Peake, 1990). Another findings retrieved from a research done by Mac Cann et al (2011) explains that the target to achieve better educational output is skills related to emotion management and problem-focused coping.

Problem Statement

Since time immemorial, students have always been educated with the sole aim of succeeding in their future. High IQ students were the favorites and considered as the only ones who could make it to a brighter career. Students’ emotions, their interpersonal skills and ability to regulate their feelings weren’t taken into consideration. As a result, many intelligent students faced failure. The factors behind were manifold: they weren’t able to assess their own feelings-they were not emotionally intelligent. For instance, some couldn’t deal with the pressure of studies, with the dating fashion increasingly dominating the youth, some might have been left heart-broken and the rest could merely be overwhelmed with unexplained stress.

With regards to positive solutions to the issue of academic failure, it is essential to bridge existing gaps caused by limited studies conducted relating emotional intelligence to its importance in academic success. Then it is imperative for schools to integrate it in their curricula, by this not only will students perform better in their studies, but it will also imply prosperity at professional and national levels in form of a competent career and a better standard of living.

Research Aims & Objectives

In context of the two concepts and their principles, the present study will be conducted in Malaysian higher education background, more precisely on first- and final-year medical students.

The aim of this study is:

  • To show the importance of emotional intelligence for the academic achievement of students
  • To explore other variables which can affect the development of emotional intelligence and academic performance
  • To identify significant relationship between emotional aptitudes and academic success.

Research Questions:

  • Is there a significant relationship between emotional intelligence and academic performance in medical education?
  • To what extent do other factors impact on emotional intelligence and its effect on academic performance?

Rationale of study

Hopefully, the completion of this research can provide a form of enlightenment of the implications of emotional intelligence on academic achievement. Understanding the importance of emotional intelligence on academic performance will help educational policy makers to devise and promote enhanced educating systems. Another profitable aspect of this research could be raising awareness on the concept of emotion management, thereby helping academically-thriving students to overcome their daily stress, hence increasing student productivity.

Literature Review


The literature review was obtained through a thorough retrospect of journals, articles, books and documents. This chapter provides an in-depth explanation for the need of emotional intelligence in medical studies, considered to be among the toughest educational programs. It also reviews the factors that influence emotional intelligence and their impact on academic success which include: emotional literacy, academic understanding, motivation and pressure handling.

Significant relationship between emotional intelligence and academic performance in medical students

Studies have shown that college students with a higher emotional intelligence are more friendly, integrate easily in society and are less conflictual (Brackett MA, Rivers SE, Salovey P, 2011(a)). Accordingly, these improved social and emotional capabilities translate themselves into a prominent cognitive ability and quality relationships leading to better academic performances (Schutte NS, Malouff JM, Bobik C, Coston TD, Greeson C, Jedlicka C, Rhodes E, Wendorf G, 2001). Medical studies are hard. According to recent statistics, the number of students enrolling in medical colleges has been increasing .This shows that the desire to become a doctor is quite appealing in the younger generations. But the challenges facing students are not only impersonal, rather there are some non-clinical trials that they confront and are expected to overcome them successfully if they truly want to succeed in their career. For instance, other than the complex medical terminologies they need to master correctly, medical students face a lot of pressures which appeal, directly or indirectly to their emotions, in forms of workload, tiredness, fear of failure, demotivation, burnout and sometimes deprivation of parental affection (Anton Gervaziev, 2014). At this juncture, there is no way out. Failure seems to be the only results. This is where comes the need to be emotionally intelligent-to be able to regulate feelings and prioritize thoughts.

As explained by the General Medical Council (2009), students need to be instilled with patient-care and self-care virtues to become good professionals. It is just not about being a purely analytical doctor but much more than that, to become an effective physician with empathic, ethical and competent communication skills. Not only will advance recovery and therapeutic programs, but will contribute largely to a better medical service and higher healthcare standards (Wagner PJ, Moseley GC, Grant MM, Gore JR, Owens, 2002).

As such, Goleman (1995 (b)), through his research showed that emotional intelligence is eminently helpful in the education, work and mental health sectors. Along with potential evidence, he explained that as far as long-term prosperity and success in all stances of life, being able to recognize and manage feelings, that is being emotionally intelligent is much more meaningful than being brainy. The concept of IQ affirms that essential emotional competencies can surely be taught and improved in medical students so as they can succeed in everything they undertake. Teaching intrapersonal skills at school is not only beneficial during the college times; instead they have long-term effect on academic achievement (Elias M.J., Gara M., Schuyler T., Brandon-Muller L.R. and Sayette M.A, 1991). For instance: teaching emotional intelligence dexterities to first-year students can, directly or indirectly improve their following years of education as emotional intelligence provides the possibility of improving academically.

Other factors affecting emotional intelligence and its impact on academic performance in medical students

  1. Emotional literacy

Emotional literacy is als0 known as Emotional intelligence with a heart which aims at teaching people to recognize their feelings ,to caringly understand others feelings, strength and reasons and to foster the love-centered ability to choose to display the feeling which is best apt to a particular situation (Riane Eisler, Ronald Laing and Eric Berne,2003).Emotional literacy helps students become aware of their feelings of fear, anger and aggression and how to convert them into fearlessness, courage and tolerance. Emotional intelligence is a cross-section of interconnected emotional and social competencies ,abilities and promoters that determine how efficient individuals are at understanding and expressing themselves, understanding others and coping with every day-life stress and pressures ((Bar-On, 2006). Kapp (2002) is also of the view that it is that very part of the human nature that boost us to display behaviors like imagination, impulse control, tenacity, tolerance, intuition, respectability and social adeptness.

  1. Academic Understanding

In the Malaysian medical scenario, academic understanding has always been a subject of stress and social recognition of a student. What mattered was only the grade and percentage of the results after examinations. As a result, medical students had no option but to cram in order to pass in exams. Inevitably, this sprung up various emotional imbalances including stress, pressure and fear. All this only because memorizing was put forward instead of promoting academic understanding of modules. This resulted in academic failure as well as emotional hijacking-the trigger point to flee or flight situations causing individuals to react irrationally and destructively (Goleman, 1996).

  1. Affective Motivation

According to Kreitner (2005), motivation is the psychological process which directs human behavior towards a particular goal. Affective motivation- deals mostly with the way individuals experience, process and behave based on emotions. The three behavioral patterns that motivation influences are: firstly, energizing behavior in which a negative state can urge a person to resort to violent acts in order to let out his or her anger or frustration. For instance, medical student failing at their last year examination can abuse professors in order to remove the negative affective state. Secondly there is the sustaining behavior in which individuals are driven by something and may continue to keep doing it. For instance: a student may be enjoying a party and choose to stay till late despite having a test the next morning. Lastly there is the directing behavior during which the individuals is faced by a panoply of alternatives and imagine himself or herself enacting each of them (Richard W. Scholl, 2007).Russell (2003) explains that this visualization of each choice brings out the emotional response. For instance: if someone chooses to start an assignment early, he or she might also think of waking up early and sacrificing other opportunities.

  1. Pressure handling

The need to do justice to family sacrifices and desire to become a physician the medical field exerts pressure on the minds of students, influencing his or her emotional state. In view of the final examinations and medical licensing examinations, students experience fear, stress and many other negative feelings, as a result of the cognitive burden of an overestimation of success as well as an achievement oriented behavior.in this case, not being emotionally intelligent can be of a major disadvantage and even lead to disastrous consequences.



In attempt to find out the effect of emotional intelligence on academic performance, the study will be conducted on first-year and final-year medical students in University Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia. The sample will include students from the Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Medical Education Unit and Department of Psychiatry. The cross-sectional study will involve the ability-based instrument Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) to measure EI and total continuous assessment marks, in form of percentage ranging from 0 to 100% to measure academic performance. Data will be analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 19. Demographic parameters and the total MSCEIT scores will be the independent variables whereas the dependent variables will include student’s assessment marks and grades.


An intensive analysis of the results of how other variables impact on emotional intelligence and academic performance will vary from first and last year students. First year students, being new and unaware might experience from fear and nervousness due to the transition period from secured home to independent living in college. On their part, last year medical students, with impending professional examination with conferment of a doctor degree and internship in the same calendar year, face high-stress time. Clearly, these two segments are in high emotion-demanding academic years due to which EI effects will be more apparent and comparable.

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The conditions put forward for students to take part will include age older than 18 years, no psychiatric disorder and ability to understand English. The study will be carried out in the second semester, close to the final examination so as to provide more accurate results of EI. Students, being given a specific student number for identification, will be given a briefing as well as a consent forms and information sheets prior to the assessment which will be performed online. Demographic items were also sought –a series of questions about age, ethnicity, enjoyment in studying, presence of doctor in family, monthly income ,extent of social life, teacher quality, facility available and many other.

Consisting of 141 items and carried out in 30-45 minutes, the MSCEIT test has the purpose to bringing into action the four abilities of emotional intelligence. The assessment will be divided into two parts: the emotional experiencing (EXP) and emotional reasoning (REA) which will be further branched into task scores as shown in Table 1.

As for the academic performance, total assessment scores shall be retrieved from the home office. Performance was coded using the standard A to F grading system, with each alphabet relating to a particular percentage performance: A ≥ 75%, B + =70–74%, B 65–69%, B- 60–64%, C 50–59% and F < 50%.


Table 1: The MSCEIT scores


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