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TRAIT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
University College London, UK
K. V. PETRIDES
Institute of Education, University of London, UK
Participants completed measures of trait emotional intelligence (trait EI), happiness, person-
ality, and cognitive ability. Neuroticism was negatively related to happiness, whereas
Extraversion and Openness to Experience were positively related to it. Cognitive ability was
not related either to happiness or to trait EI. Athree-step hierarchical regression showed that
trait EI explained over 50% of the total variance in happiness. The positive relationship
between trait EI and happiness persisted in the presence of the Big Five. In contrast, the Big
Five did not account for a significant amount of happiness variance when trait EI was par-
Psychologists have mainly focused on human unhappiness (depression, anxi-
ety, emotional disorders, etc.) and neglected the positive aspects of human poten-
tial (Seligman, 2003). It was only comparatively recently, especially after
Bradburn's (1969) discovery of the independence of positive and negative affect,
that psychological research started to examine the definitions, correlates, and
predictors of happiness (e.g., Argyle, 1992, 2001; Diener, 1984, 2000; Eysenck,
1990; Myers, 1992; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Argyle (2001) pre-
sented a tripartite conceptualization of happiness comprising: 1) the average
level of satisfaction over a specific time period, 2) the frequency and degree of
positive affect, and 3) the relative absence of negative affect.
Personality traits, particularly Extraversion and Neuroticism, have consistent-
SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 2003, 31(8), 815-824
© Society for Personality Research (Inc.)
Professor Adrian Furnham, University College London, UK; K. V. Petrides, Institute of Education,
University of London, UK.
Appreciation is due to reviewers including: Donald Saklofske, PhD, Department of
Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, Canada, S7N 5A5. Email: <Don.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Keywords: happiness, emotional self-efficacy, personality, IQ, trait EI
Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Professor A. Furnham, Department of
Psychology, University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAP, UK.
Phone: (020) 7679-5395; Fax: (020) 7436-4276; Email: <email@example.com>
ly been found to be the strongest predictors of general happiness levels, account-
ing for up to half of the total reliable variance in the various measures (Argyle &
Lu, 1990; Brebner, 1998; Eysenck, 1990; Francis, Brown, Lester, & Philipchalk,
1998; Furnham & Brewin, 1990; Furnham & Cheng, 1997, 1999, 2000; Heady
& Wearing, 1991; Lewis, Francis, & Ziebertz, 2002; Myers & Diener, 1995).
Indeed, Francis entitled his 1999 publication in Personality and Individual
Differences "Happiness Is a Thing Called Stable Extraversion". While the links
between happiness and personality have been the subject of much research,
comparatively few studies have examined the association between happiness and
cognitive ability. One objective of this study was to investigate the relationship
between happiness and cognitive ability, as operationalized via four distinct IQ
tests. Eysenck (1990; p. 33) argued: "Despite the fact that it definitely seems
preferable to be clever rather than dull, there is very little evidence that intelli-
gence is related in any way to happiness". In a similar vein, Argyle (2001) noted
that education is related to happiness, but once the confounding influences of
occupational status and income are taken into account, the relationship virtually
Another omission in the literature on individual-differences correlates and pre-
dictors of happiness concerns the concept of emotional intelligence (EI). Two
types of EI can be distinguished based on the measurement method used to oper-
ationalise the construct (Austin, Saklofske, Huang, & McKenney, in press;
Petrides & Furnham, 2000a, b; Saklofske, Austin, & Minski, 2003).
Trait EI (or 'emotional self-efficacy') is operationalized through self-report
questionnaires, whereas ability EI (or “cognitive-emotional ability”) is opera-
tionalized through maximum performance tests, that is, tests comprising items
that may be answered correctly or incorrectly. The operationalization of ability
EI is considerably complicated by the fact that emotional experiences are inher-
ently subjective (see, e.g., Spain, Eaton, & Funder, 2000) and, therefore, not
amenable to objective scoring criteria.
Trait EI is a constellation of emotion-related self-perceived abilities and dis-
positions located at the lower levels of personality hierarchies (Petrides &
Furnham, 2001). Individuals with high trait EI scores believe that they are “in
touch” with their emotions and that they can regulate them in a way that pro-
motes well-being. These individuals should enjoy higher levels of happiness.
The present study set out to replicate previous findings on the relationship
between personality and happiness as well as to investigate the association of
happiness with cognitive ability and trait EI. It was hypothesized that
Extraversion and Neuroticism would be, respectively, positively and negatively
correlated with happiness (H1 and H2). It was further hypothesized that trait EI
would be a positive predictor of happiness (H3) and that this relationship would
remain statistically significant even after controlling for the effects of the Big
TRAIT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Five (H4). Last, it was hypothesized that cognitive ability would not be signifi-
cantly associated with either trait EI (H5) or happiness (H6).
In total, 88 individuals participated in the study, of whom 11 were male and 77
female. The mean age for the sample was 19.79 yrs (SD = .83 yrs; Range = 18
to 23 yrs).
NEO-FFI (Costa & McCrae, 1992). This is a 60-item questionnaire measuring
the "Big Five" personality factors, viz., Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to
Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Items are responded to on a
5-point Likert scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
2. Cognitive ability
a) Wonderlic Personnel Test (Wonderlic Personnel Test Inc., 1998). This 50-
item test is administered in 12 minutes and provides a measurement of general
intelligence. Scores range from 0 to 50. Items include word and number com-
parisons, disarranged sentences, serial analysis of geometric figures, and story
problems requiring mathematical and logical solutions. The test has impressive
norms and correlates very highly (r = .92) with the WAIS-R.
b) The Baddeley Reasoning Test (Baddeley, 1968). This 60-item test is
administered in 3 minutes and measures fluid intelligence through logical rea-
soning. Scores range from 0 to 60. Each item is presented in the form of a gram-
matical transformation that is either "true" or "false", e.g., "A precedes B - AB"
(true) or "A does not follow B - BA" (false). The test has been used in many stud-
ies to obtain a quick and reliable measurement of cognitive ability (e.g.,
Furnham, Gunter, & Peterson, 1994).
c) AH5 - Part 1 (Heim, Watts, & Simmonds, 1970). This is a well-established
20-minute measure of verbal and spatial ability. It was designed for use on
selected and highly intelligent samples (notably university students).
d) WAIS Vocabulary Subscale (Wechsler, 1981). This 30-item WAIS subscale
was used to assess verbal intelligence. Verbal IQ is a very good index of crys-
tallized, as opposed to fluid, intelligence (Cattell, 1971; Horn, 1989). The
vocabulary subscale is the subtest with the highest loading on the verbal IQ fac-
tor of the WAIS.
3. Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire - Short Form (TEIQue-SF;
Petrides, Pérez, & Furnham, 2003)
This is a 30-item questionnaire designed to measure global trait emotional
TRAIT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 817
intelligence (trait EI). It is based on the full form of the TEIQue (Petrides &
Furnham, 2003), which covers the trait EI sampling domain comprehensively.
The TEIQue-SF provides highly reliable global trait EI scores that correlate
meaningfully with a wide range of diverse criteria, including coping styles, life
satisfaction, personality disorders, perceived job control, and job satisfaction
(Petrides et al., 2003). Items are responded to on a 7-point Likert scale.
4. The Oxford Happiness Inventory (Argyle, Martin, & Crossland, 1989).
This is a 29-item questionnaire that has been used extensively in happiness
research (Argyle, 2001; Cheng & Furnham, 2003; Furnham, Cheng, & Shirasu,
2001). Items are responded to on a 7-point rating scale.
All participants were first-year undergraduate students, who completed a bat-
tery of questionnaires and tests shortly after arriving at university. Testing took
approximately 3 hours. All participants were fully debriefed about their scores.
Table 1 summarizes the zero-order correlations between happiness and the
other measures in the study. With the exception of a significant correlation with
the WAIS vocabulary score, happiness was not related to any cognitive-ability
tests. As would be expected (Spearman, 1904), scores on the cognitive-ability
tests were significantly intercorrelated (Pearson product-moment correlations
varied between .37 and .69). Thus, the four tests were combined into a single
reliable composite ('g'; alpha = .73). g was not related to happiness (r= .14, p=
ns). Trait EI was the strongest correlate of happiness, though Neuroticism,
Extraversion, and Openness also showed statistically significant associations
(see Table 1). As expected, trait EI was not significantly correlated to any of the
A three-step hierarchical regression was performed, whereby happiness was
regressed on trait EI (step 1), g (step 2), and the Big Five (Step 3). These results
are summarized in Table 2 and show that trait EI is by far the strongest predic-
tor of happiness, accounting for over 50% of the total variance. In fact, in the
presence of trait EI, none of the Big Five factors was reliably associated with
happiness, even though Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness all showed
significant zero-order correlations (see Table 1). The R2 change in the last step
of the hierarchical regression (where the Big Five were collectively entered into
the equation) was not statistically significant (F-change(5, 57) = 1.30, p= ns).
TRAIT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
TRAIT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
All hypotheses (H1-H6) were borne out by the data. Thus, Extraversion and
Neuroticism were statistically significantly associated with happiness, as was
trait EI. In addition, happiness was positively related to Openness. In line with
CORRELATES OF THE OXFORD HAPPINESS INVENTORY
Mean SD r with happiness
IQ Wonderlic 25.91 5.89 -.07
Baddeley 29.85 13.11 .01
Alice Han 14.10 4.89 .13
WAIS vocabulary 54.15 11.19 .26*
Trait EI TEIQue-SF 143.93 21.69 .70**
Big Five N 18.58 6.79 -.37**
E 23.13 5.77 .33**
O 19.35 5.32 .38**
A 18.51 4.25 .15
C 24.05 5.58 .10
RESULTS OF THREE-STEP HIERARCHICAL REGRESSIONS WITH THE OXFORD HAPPINESS
INVENTORY AS THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE
Regression Beta t
Step 1. F (1, 63) = 72.14; Adj. R2= .53
Trait EI .73 8.5*
Step 2. F(2, 62) = 36.38; Adj. R2= .53
Trait EI .74 8.5*
g .08 .91
Step 3. F(7, 57) = 11.60; Adj. R2= .54
Trait EI .59 5.19*
g .04 .44
N -.08 -.78
E .11 1.10
O .15 1.47
A .09 0.94
C -.01 -0.07
H4, the positive association between trait EI and happiness remained statistical-
ly significant even after controlling for scores on the Big Five. Scores on gener-
al cognitive ability were associated neither with happiness nor with trait EI.
With respect to the last finding, a larger and more representative sample might
have resulted in stronger correlations between cognitive ability and the other
variables in the study, although, as far as trait EI is concerned, the obtained
results are fully in line with theoretical expectations.
The last step in the hierarchical regression is important because it shows that
the strong relationship between happiness and personality (particularly
Extraversion and Neuroticism) clearly diminishes once trait EI is taken into
account. Of course, trait EI is conceptually and empirically related to happiness
and well-being (Palmer, Donaldson, & Stough, 2002; Petrides & Furnham, 2001;
Saklofske et al., 2003). What is especially interesting, however, is that this rela-
tionship not only retains its statistical significance in the presence of the Big
Five, but also nullifies the association between happiness and personality.
The issue of whether trait EI has incremental validity over the basic personal-
ity dimensions has been discussed at length and conclusively answered else-
where (e.g., Petrides & Furnham, 2003). One of the issues raised there is that
hierarchical regression analyses aimed at assessing the incremental validity of
trait EI vis-à-vis the major dimensions of personality are inherently biased
because they pitch the single degree of freedom for trait EI against the three or
five degrees of freedom for the personality structures. In spite of this, it has been
repeatedly shown that trait EI predicts criteria over and above the Giant Three or
the Big Five (e.g., Petrides, Frederickson, & Furnham, in press; Saklofske et al.,
2003). The extraordinary finding in the present study is the collective failure of
the Big Five to account for a significant portion of happiness variance over and
above trait EI.
The present findings confirm that well-being is a salient component of trait EI.
It is important to recognize, however, that it is neither the sole nor the most
important component of the construct. Thus, Petrides et al. (in press) demon-
strated that trait EI predicts important life outcomes, such as exclusions from
school and truancy, incrementally over the Giant Three, even when its general-
mood/well-being component has been removed. Such findings provide empiri-
cal answers to questions about whether the associations between trait EI and cer-
tain external criteria are simply due to the well-being component of the construct
(Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000). In addition, they raise questions about the
overrepresentation of this component in certain trait EI measures, such as the
Bar-On EQ-i (Bar-On, 1997).
This study showed that a large amount of variance in happiness is determined
by people's emotion-related self-perceptions and dispositions like, for example,
emotion regulation, relationship skills, and social competence. Apoint to note is
TRAIT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
that the strength of this relationship could vary across different cultures
(Schimmack, Radhakrishnan, Oishi, Dzokoto, & Ahadi, 2002). An important
task for future research is to examine the relationship between trait EI and real-
life criteria that have been variously linked to happiness (e.g., creativity, job pro-
ductivity, health, etc.). This could be an important first step towards the devel-
opment and implementation of research-based assessment systems and interven-
tion programs designed to improve performance, relationship quality, and gen-
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