Emotional Intelligence in American and Saudi University Students

Emotional Intelligence in American and Saudi University Students






Emotional Intelligence in American and Saudi University Students

Literature Review


The variety and diversity of human emotions has continued to surprise a large number of scientists given its complexity. Without a doubt, all human beings have emotions. Emotional intelligence is concerned with human beings and their understanding of emotions. To be devoid of emotional intelligence would mean being unable to control, express or even understand their emotions or that of others. As an area of study, emotional intelligence (EQ) involves investigating the different factors and elements involved in determining the expression of human emotions and the subsequent reactions by other people. The significance of emotional intelligence cannot be overlooked mainly because it has a direct influence on other aspects of life such as work, family, and physical health. For this particular examination, Daniel Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence and consequent conclusions will be explored extensively. Goleman describes emotional intelligence as a moral necessity inherent in all human beings and useful in enhancing the deteriorating society that comprises of self-control and empathy (Goleman, 2013). This section of the paper seeks to analyze the differences in emotional intelligence that exist between American and Saudi University Students. Apart from this socio-cultural examination, the paper will also examine the effects and consequences of these differences on their education and family life. Consequently, this paper seeks to disclose the variations in the emotional intelligence between Saudi and American university students and sustain the assertion that Saudi learners possess significantly lower self-consciousness, self-control, social understanding, and relationship management compared to Americans.


Definition of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman provided a mixed model that consisted of a broad collection of competencies and expertise that influence the level of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2013). The first construct, self-awareness refers to the capacity to identify emotions, values and objectives as well as their effect. Self-awareness is the key driving factor among most leaders and prominent people (Goleman, 2013). The next construct, self-regulation involves calculating or conveying disruptive sensations, impulses and adjusting to shifting circumstances. Different situations evoke a myriad of emotions some of which may be beneficial while others are detrimental. Having control over the type of emotions to display during a particular situation shows the level of self-control. Social skills refer to the ease of handling relationships and directing people to work towards a particular target. This trait is mostly sought after in leadership positions (Goleman, 2013). Empathy is concerned with caring for the feelings of other people in the process of making important decisions (Goleman, 2013). Lastly, motivation can be defined as the drive to achieve a certain goal or objective. These constructs work together to create the mixed model that is used to explain emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2013). These constructs will be used in the process of examining the emotional intelligence differences between American and Saudi university students.

The comparison of these two regions based on emotional intelligence requires the examination of cultural factors. This is because culture defines and separates an American student from a Saudi student. Previous studies have avoided comparing these two sets of culture due to their vast difference. The United States is considered an open and liberal society while Saudi Arabia is more reserved, conventional, and conformist in nature. It is imperative to acknowledge that culture shapes the behavior, thoughts and values that work together to influence one’s emotions. The measure used to establish emotional intelligence is the academia version of Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI-U). The aspects involved in the ESCI-U include leadership competencies, authentic concepts and instruments, group mentality as well as other minor aspects. It should be understood that the focus on Saudi students emanates from the unique situation in which they find themselves. Most face challenging times especially when they relocate from the Middle East to other institutions in Europe and the United States. Particularly, the changeover period for student from Saudi Arabia to the Western world bears great enjoyable as well as emotional experiences. During this period, students are forced to encounter new circumstances, create new acquaintances, and adopt independent learning and social habits based on the new academic setting. Additionally, international students deal with the foreign cultural surroundings and make the necessary adjustments.

Goleman on Emotional Intelligence

Goleman proposed that emotional intellect is linked to social abilities, for instance compassion and social expertise. These two aspects: social skills and empathy are aspects of EQ that were chosen for the study because of two reasons (Goleman, 2013). One, demonstration of sympathy and social skills in an educational setting has a noteworthy influence on students’ perceptions of their emotional intelligence and that no significant studies researched the correlation between the two constructs in local or cross-cultural settings. Emotional intelligence is concerned with the capability and awareness of individual’s sentiments as well as other people’s feelings, to distinguish between them, and process the information to guide an individual’s thoughts and actions (Goleman, 2013). This description comprises of three classes of abilities: assessment and delivery of emotion, control of emotion, and manipulation of emotions while making decisions.

Goleman offered a comparable definition: the ability to organize individual feelings and other people’s feelings, for inspiring people, and for controlling emotions appropriately and within different relationships. It is evident that EQ associates with several non-cognitive abilities or competencies that affect an individual’s faculty to handle external demands and strain. Students across the world present varying features including their thought processes, behave, and even react. Cultural dissimilarities and national cultures were examined by Hofstede. These concepts were also addressed by Howard Gardner who assumed that intelligence was more complicated than the basic IQ. He introduced interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence as new elements.

Education Programs Implementing Emotional Intelligence

Education institutions especially at the university level seek to discover different methods of implementing results of emotional intelligence studies in their curriculums. The Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) is one such approach that has been attempted at the primary and secondary levels after witnessing the social and emotional risks displayed by youth in the society. Salovey and Mayer also contributed greatly towards the development of alternative approaches that explain the differences between American and Saudi students (Salovey, Brackett, & Mayer, 2004). Salovey and Mayer’s model considers emotional intelligence as a reliable form of intelligence rooted in the adaptive application of emotions in a way that allows the individual to solve different complications and amend their action to suit the environment (Salovey et al., 2004). These two authors proposed four basic skills in the model: evaluation and articulation of emotions, precise perception, taking on and creating feelings that make reasoning possible and regulation of emotions. Goleman investigated the significance of emotions as an aspect of an individual’s general aptitude. He argued that the feelings within an individual’s intelligence offer the fundamental psychological ability to reason, to resolve complications, and to create new relationships with other people. Furthermore, emotional intelligence comprises of a mixture of competencies that build towards a person’s capability to handle and observe an individual’s emotions, accurately measure others’ emotional condition, and influence outlooks. Emotionally intelligent people can encourage cognitive elasticity in judging and perceiving things in varied ways, enhance job results and important outcomes, and can improve accountability.

Emotional Intelligence and Culture

            In order to understand the relationship between culture and EQ, it is imperative to make a comparison between North American and Saudi Arabian university students mainly because the notion of EQ originated from the United States and that there is considerable evidence of divergent values and convictions in the Middle East. All through Western history, emotion has frequently been considered as the direct opposite of mental power. Conversely, Mayer and Salovey posited that feelings and intelligence often function in unison and can improve each other (Salovey et al., 2004). Considering emotions, Salovey and Mayer queried why human beings had developed a multifaceted and fascinating system if it was not adaptive and served no real purpose (Salovey et al., 2004). Salovey and Mayer‘s reflections encouraged the initial academic papers on emotional intelligence (Salovey et al., 2004). The model was consequently disseminated by Goleman‘s publication, “Emotional Intelligence” (Goleman, 2013). The thesis of the book asserted that there was a need for a redefinition of the term “intelligence” and the superiority of emotional intelligence when compared to conventional IQ (Salovey et al., 2004). In his publication, Goleman offered several instances where people of average IQs perform astonishingly well (Goleman, 2013). Conversely, individuals with high IQs fail in causes that are mainly credited these incidences to emotional intelligence or lack of it. He proposed that academic IQ was not providence, since emotional intelligence may play an even major role in achievement, and may be cultivated in the course of life (Goleman, 2013).

Even though Goleman‘s publication was instrumental in intensifying interest and inquisition on emotional intelligence from several journal editorials to a dynamic area of study, it drifted significantly from the publications of Salovey and Mayer (Goleman, 2013). The significance of cultural differences in competencies has been a long-standing subject of massive interest and discussions. For instance, the achievements of Europeans, from journalism to technology to warfare, create a common idea that individuals of European origin are hereditarily advanced compared to other groups (Goleman, 2013). A remarkable effort by mental psychologists has been allocated into researching differences in IQ between individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds residing in the same regions, but their labors have failed to establish their genetic supremacy because of disparities in their surroundings (Goleman, 2013).

A more common ascription within the public realm is the environmental hypothesis. Explicitly, cultural differences in IQ scores are caused by socioeconomic elements for instance, the lower ranks of education and service as well as greater occurrences of extreme underfeeding and family abandon. However, when socioeconomic factors are tacit, cultural differences can be decreased but not eradicated. It is evident that this hypothesis is only a fractional clarification. A further acknowledgment of cultural differences in IQ scores is individual‘s subconscious propensity to confirm typecasts concerning their group‘s academic capacities. For instance, several studies discovered that African Americans and Caucasians performed equally on a set of verbal tests. However, African Americans performed considerably worse compared to Caucasians when unconstructive stereotypes concerning African Americans‘intellectual capabilities were delicately availed to them. However, while results from tests were tentative, cultural contexts usually prove to be highly effective in triggering signs of high or low emotional intelligence. Certain behaviors that are considered smart within the American context can be regarded as unintelligent in the Saudi culture. This presents a new angle towards understanding intelligence. The conventional approach towards addressing emotional intelligence assumes that it is homogenous across all cultures and that it can be evaluated using a similar benchmark. However, it is emerging that intelligence has different manifestations across cultures and that assessing it requires a narrow scope that focuses on a particular culture only. Studies by Sternberg revealed that while most of the dimensions of intelligence were universal, their expression, and content differed sharply according to the culture. For instance, most university students of American descent have little qualms sharing a similar hostel with another student of the opposite gender. In fact, inter-gender contact and communication is the norm within the United States. Conversely, Saudi students find it very difficult to initiate and maintain such types of contact across genders. It is quite easy to evaluate intelligence across different cultures using Western assessment instruments that are then awarded to people in different cultures.

Students therefore need to acknowledge the presence of the opposite sex, identify the need to make new friends and follow the appropriate channels to initiate and maintain friendship. One could reason that this phenomenon was caused by some family units in Saudi Arabia that stress clear distinctions between inter-gender contacts. Conversely, American families encouraged open contact and communication between boys and girls. The outcome is that students naturally adopt a different path and consequently, indigenous or traditional norms supersede modern trends regardless of the environment. Understanding these differences requires the elaboration of horizontal and vertical individualism. Horizontal individualism is a cultural model where people perceive themselves as being autonomous and highlight parity above anything else. Therefore, in such societies, people value uniqueness, freedom, and self-reliance. Conversely, vertical collectivism refers to a cultural pattern where the people are high co-dependent on each other and where hierarchy is stressed. In the study, it is clear that students form America backgrounds exhibit high levels of independence and self-assertion when compared to their Saudi counterparts. Conversely, Saudi students displayed high levels of conformity and restriction.


Emotional intelligence is a diverse and important aspect of interpersonal relationships within the society. Within a higher institution of learning such as universities, factors that promote the growth of emotional intelligence among students enable them to adapt and pass through the foreign cultural setting without having an adverse effect on their psychological or academic performance. However, it is clear that regardless of the attitude, cultural patterns greatly affect the level and type of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2013). Therefore, understanding the role played by emotional intelligence in determining the extent and success of individuals within the society. By investigating the differences between students from two contrasting cultures in the world, it has been possible to shed more light on their dynamics, modes of interaction and relationship creation.







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Goleman, D. (2013). Primal leadership: Unleashing the power of emotional intelligence, with a new preface by. S.l.: Harvard Bus Review Press.

Goleman, D. (2013). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Salovey, P., Brackett, M. A., & Mayer, J. D. (2004). Emotional intelligence: Key readings on the Mayer and Salovey model. Port Chester, N.Y: Dude Pub.

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