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J Clin Nurs. 2007 Aug;16(8):1405-16.

Emotional intelligence: a review of the literature with specific focus on empirical and epistemological perspectives.

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Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway.



The aim of this literature review was to evaluate and discuss previous research on emotional intelligence with specific focus on empirical and epistemological perspectives.


The concept of emotional intelligence is derived from extensive research and theory about thoughts, feelings and abilities that, prior to 1990, were considered to be unrelated phenomena. Today, emotional intelligence attracts growing interest worldwide, contributing to critical reflection as well as to various educational, health and occupational outcomes.


Systematic review.


The findings revealed that the epistemological tradition of natural science is the most frequently used and that, therefore, few articles related to humanistic sciences or philosophical perspectives were found. There is no agreement as to whether emotional intelligence is an individual ability, non-cognitive skill, capability or competence. One important finding is that, regardless of the theoretical framework used, researchers agree that emotional intelligence embraces emotional awareness in relation to self and others, professional efficiency and emotional management. There have been some interesting theoretical frameworks that relate emotional intelligence to stress and mental health within different contexts. Emotional learning and maturation processes, i.e. personal growth and development in the area of emotional intelligence, are central to professional competence.


There is no doubt that the research on emotional intelligence is scarce and still at the developmental stage. Clinical questions pertaining to the nursing profession should be developed with focus on personal qualities of relevance to nursing practice. Different approaches are needed in order to further expand the theoretical, empirical and philosophical foundation of this important and enigmatic concept.


Emotional intelligence may have implications for health promotion and quality of working life within nursing. Emotional intelligence seems to lead to more positive attitudes, greater adaptability, improved relationships and increased orientation towards positive values.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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