The Evolution and Impact of Social Intelligence in Research

Feb 15


Sandeep Atre

Sandeep Atre

  • Share this article on Facebook
  • Share this article on Twitter
  • Share this article on Linkedin

Social intelligence (SI) is a multifaceted concept that has evolved significantly since its inception in the early 20th century. It encompasses the cognitive and practical abilities to understand, manage, and navigate human relationships effectively. This article delves into the historical development of SI, its distinction from general intelligence, and its role as a predictor of social effectiveness. We will explore the integration of emotional intelligence (EI) with SI, the criteria for SI as an intelligence, and the various dimensions that constitute this complex construct.

The Genesis and Growth of Social Intelligence

Social intelligence,The Evolution and Impact of Social Intelligence in Research Articles a term first coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920, refers to the adeptness in understanding and managing interpersonal relationships. Thorndike described it as the capacity to act wisely in human relations, a definition that emphasizes both the cognitive and practical aspects of social interactions.

Early Definitions and Developments

Following Thorndike, researchers like Moss and Hunt, and P. E. Vernon in the 1930s, expanded on the concept, associating it with the general ability to get along with others and the knowledge of social matters. However, it wasn't until the 1980s that Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, which included interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, rekindled interest in SI. Gardner's model suggested that much of a person's effective intelligence is derived from their ability to leverage the resources of others.

Validating Social Intelligence

Research in the 1980s, including studies by Ford and Tisak, began to validate SI as distinct from general intelligence and a better predictor of social effectiveness. This period saw a consensus among researchers that SI was a unique construct that played a crucial role in human behavior.

The Integration of Emotional Intelligence

In the late 1990s, the work of Salovey and Mayer introduced the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) as a subset of SI, emphasizing the monitoring and management of emotions in oneself and others. This led to a more nuanced understanding of how SI operates in social contexts.

Criteria for Intelligence

The debate over whether SI could be classified as 'intelligence' was addressed by researchers Boyatzis and Sala, who outlined criteria for a concept to be considered as such. Daniel Goleman's work, particularly his exploration of the neurological underpinnings of SI, was instrumental in establishing SI as a domain of intelligence.

The Multidimensional Nature of Social Intelligence

The Six Dimensions of Intelligence

Karl Albrecht later proposed that humans possess six basic dimensions of intelligence, with SI being one of them. This model defined SI as the ability to interact successfully with others and highlighted the behavioral manifestations of interpersonal awareness.

Emotional and Social Intelligence (ESI)

Goleman and Boyatzis further refined the concept by distinguishing between interpersonal (SI) and intrapersonal (EI) competencies, leading to the integrated concept of ESI. This framework linked personality to action and job performance, positioning ESI as a competency that leads to effective or superior performance.

The Behavioral Manifestations of ESI

Bar-On's model of ESI includes a set of interrelated emotional and social competencies that determine how effectively we understand and express ourselves, understand and get along with others, and handle daily activities. This model underscores the importance of both EI and SI in achieving personal and professional success.

The Five Major Dimensions of Social Intelligence

Albrecht elaborated on the five major dimensions of SI, which he summarized with the acronym SPACE: Situational Radar, Presence, Authenticity, Clarity, and Empathy. These dimensions highlight the various cognitive abilities and social skills that constitute SI.

The Cognitive Ability Construct of SI

Recent research has focused on a potential-based concept of SI, distinguishing between cognitive abilities and social competent behavior. This approach defines SI as a multidimensional cognitive ability construct, supported by data from a multitrait-multimethod study by Weis and Süß in 2007.

The Current Understanding of Social Intelligence

Today, SI is recognized as a complex construct that includes knowledge of social situations, accurate interpretation of social cues, and the skills to behave appropriately in various contexts. It is seen as an essential component of human intelligence, as important as cognitive aspects, and is integral to effective interpersonal interactions.

The Role of SI in Human Relationships

Researchers like Hopkins and Bilimoria have emphasized that being good at human relationships is a key aspect of SI. Crowne defined it as the ability to interact effectively with others in any social situation, while Emmerling and Boyatzis described SI competency as the ability to be aware of, understand, and act on emotional information about others that leads to effective performance.

The Interplay of SI and EI

The interplay between SI and EI is crucial, as one cannot exist without the other. SI involves the ability to relate to people, perceive social situations accurately, and respond appropriately, while EI is essential for managing one's own emotions and those of others.


Social intelligence has come a long way since Thorndike's initial proposal. It has been dissected, redefined, and integrated with emotional intelligence to form a comprehensive understanding of how individuals interact with one another. As research continues to evolve, the significance of SI in personal and professional domains remains a topic of great interest and importance.

For further reading on the development of social intelligence, readers can explore the works of Edward Thorndike, Howard Gardner, and Daniel Goleman, which are available through various academic publications. Additionally, the American Psychological Association provides resources and articles on the latest research in the field of social intelligence.