Language learning is a complex process. It deals with fundamental issues such as language
knowledge, cognition, and the affective nature of individuals. Besides, the emotional
intelligence of the learners is one influential factor in every learning situation. As Mulder
(2009, p. 60) believes, “Emotional intelligence is a relatively new field of study”, which
covers all human abilities, and to some degree, skills in the affective domain (Goleman,
2001). According to Goleman’s view, it involves the perception of feelings and management
On the other hand, schools have attempted for many decades to foresee which students
would be better in both the education and workplace. Many of these schools have used
standardized achievement tests and intelligence quotient (IQ) scores as a way to give their
best guesses. However, Abdolrezapour (2013, p. 331) mentioned some recent studies, which
showed that a child’s emotional intelligence can be a better predictor for measuring the
students’ success. In this regard she stated, “Experts now believe that success is influenced
20% by IQ and 80% by various factors that constitute a person’s character or personality, or
their emotional intelligence” (p.331). Therefore, if the teachers intend to enhance their
students’ second language skills, if it is possible, they ought to increase the students’
emotional intelligence abilities.
Unlike IQ, which remains constant throughout a person’s life, EI can be developed,
learned, and strengthened over time. Researchers suggest that people can acquire, through
training, both knowledge and skills in the area of emotional intelligence (Salovey, Mayer, &
Caruso, 2002). In spite of many available materials that can be cultivated in schools’
curricula in order to enhance school children’s emotional intelligence (Salovey, Mayer, &
Caruso, 2002), few researches and empirical studies were done on the ways through which
second-language learners’ EI could be raised.
However, there is broad consensus on the point that emotional intelligence offers a
solution for many of the factors that affect learning in general. Therefore, emotional
intelligence skills are relatively related to foreign language learning and subsequently to
language skills development. To this end, this study seeks to find out whether there is a
relationship between the EFL students’ emotional intelligence, gender, and their writing
Intelligence is an unstable term to define. It has undertaken different evaluations, from
intelligence as a one-dimensional concept (Binet, 1904), to intelligence as a multiple concept
(Gardner, 1983), and eventually, to intelligence as an emotional notion (Salovey & Mayer,
1990). Salovey, Mayer, Caruso, and Lopes (2003) defined emotional intelligence as an ability
which focuses on the perception and expression of emotion accurately and adaptively; along
with the ability to understand the emotional knowledge, use feelings to facilitate thought, and
to regulate emotions, in not only oneself but also others. Emotional intelligence is as old as
time. In the 1870s, Darwin published the first modern book on the role of emotional
expression in survival and adaptation (Stein & Book, 2006). In the 1920s, the American
psychologist, Thorndike proposed that humans possess several types of intelligence, one form
being called social intelligence, or the ability to understand and manage men and women, and
to act wisely in human relations (Thorndike, 1920).
Originally, the term “emotional intelligence” was mentioned by Leuner (1966);
however, it is usually attributed to Payne's doctoral dissertation “A study of Emotions:
Developing Emotional Intelligence” (Payne, 1985). Three years later, in 1988, Bar-On
mentioned the term “emotional quotient” in his dissertation; a term commonly used today to
refer to an individual’s emotional intelligence score. Few years later, Salovey and Mayer
tried to answer why some individuals are better at recognizing emotions than others, where
they first used the term “emotional intelligence” (Mayer, DiPaolo, & Salovey, 1990). In
1980s, Bar-On, one of the founding fathers of emotional intelligence, began to study how
emotions affect people’s functioning. Using his own work and that of the earlier researchers,
he began to develop an emotional quotient, or EQ test, for emotional intelligence, the first
scientifically valid assessment for emotional intelligence. Then in 1995, Goleman published
the book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” where he showed the
weakness of the traditional IQ measurement and offered the “proof” that emotional
intelligence is the strongest indicator of human success.
As to the EI models, Petrides and Furnham (2000) listed three main models namely
hierarchical model, (cognitive) ability EI model, and mixed models (personality variables and
cognitive ability). Other scholars have also proposed other EI models. The most frequently
used models and measures of EI are presented as follows:
1. Ability EI model: Salovey and Mayer's (1990) conception of EI, which perceives EI
as a form of pure intelligence, that is, emotional intelligence is a cognitive ability. The
current measure of their model of EI is the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional
Intelligence Test (MSCEIT).
2. Mixed model of EI (usually subsumed under trait EI): this model, introduced by
Goleman (1998), focuses on EI as a wide array of competencies and skills that drive
leadership performance. Two measurement tools are introduced based on this model: 1.
The Emotional Competency Inventory (ECI), and 2. The Emotional Intelligence
3. Trait EI model: Trait EI refers to an individual’s self-perceptions of their emotional
abilities. This model is measured by Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire
(TEIQue; Petrides, & Furnham, 2001).
Investigating the role of emotional factors in second language learning is not something
novel. Research studies done on EQ so far paid attention to EQ as a predictor of success in
transition from high school to university (Parker, Summerfeldt, Hogan, & Majeski, 2004).
The most important research with regard to the role of EQ in second language learning is the
work of Fahim and Pishghadam (2007), in which they explored the relationship between EQ,
IQ, and verbal intelligence and the academic achievement of students majoring in English
language. Very recently, few studies touched the point of using literature-based activities to
raise the students’ EI (Abdolrezapour & Tavakoli, 2012; Shao, Yu, & Ji, 2013). In both
studies, before the experiment, a writing test and the TEIQue-ASF (Trait Emotional
Intelligence Questionnaire-Adolescent Short Form) were administered. They both had two
groups, an experimental and a control group. The learners in the experimental group were
thought the English course with emotional activities and those in the control group were
taught based on the ordinary approaches with texts devoid of emotional words. After the
experiment, both groups were asked to write on another topic and the TEIQue-ASF was
administered again. The results in both studies showed that in the experimental groups, the
students’ scores were significantly higher than those in the control group; both in the
TEIQue-ASF and the writing post-test. In fact, the results showed that the experimental
group’s EI was significantly higher compared to that of the control group. Subsequently, it
was concluded that there is a relatively positive relationship between the learners’ emotional
intelligence and their writing performance.
On the other hand, different results were found regarding the role of gender differences
in emotional intelligence. The results of most of the studies revealed that there is no
significant difference between males and females regarding their overall emotional
intelligence (Bar-On, 2006; Brackett & Mayer, 2003; Dawda & Hart, 2000; Schutte et al.,
1998). However, some studies reported that females are higher in their emotional intelligence
compared to males (Davis, 2012; Harrod & Scheer, 2005; Singh, 2002; Sutarso, 1999), and in
some others males were found with higher level of emotional intelligence than females
(Ahmad, Bangash, & Khan, 2009; Khalili, 2011).
Considering the aforementioned studies, this study in particular, investigates the
relationship between emotional intelligence, gender, and writing performance of Iranian
undergraduate EFL students and intends to answer the following research questions:
1. Is there any statistically significant relationship between the students’ emotional
intelligence and their writing performance?
2. Is there any statistically significant relationship between the students’ gender and
their emotional intelligence?
3. Is there any statistically significant relationship between the students’ gender and
their writing performance?
4. Is there any interaction between the students’ gender, emotional intelligence, and
their writing performance?
Participants and Research Setting
The participants of this study were 30 female and 27 male adult learners of English, aged
between 19 and 35; all sophomore and junior B.A. English literature students at Allameh
Tabataba’i University. They were all Iranian and native speakers of Persian. All the subjects
had passed a writing course, i.e. advanced writing course. The participants were chosen based
on convenience sampling. However, in order to check and re-ensure the homogeneity of the
participants, a retired version of TOEFL (ETS, 2003) was administered to 68 subjects. Since
it was found that the data were normally distributed, Z=.98, p>0.05, those participants whose
scores were between 1 standard deviation (SD) above and below the mean score were
considered as the actual participants of the study. As a result, 57 participants were picked and
served as the final participants of the present study.
In order to address the mentioned research questions, three instruments were employed as
1. TOEFL Proficiency Test: A retired version of TOEFL (ETS, 2003) was administered
in order to check the homogeneity of the participants at the outset of the study.
2. Bar-On EQ-i Questionnaire: To measure the EI of the subjects, the main version of
the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i; Bar-On, 1997) was administered at the
beginning of the study. In order to re-ensure its reliability, the questionnaire was piloted in
advance on 30 EFL students with the same characteristics as the main participants of the
study. This questionnaire is a self-report scale including 132 items in the form of short
sentences. It employs a five-point Likert scale continuum with a textual response format
ranging from “Never true of me (number 1)” to “Always true of me (number 5)”, which was
completed in about 20 minutes.
3. Writing Assessment: Each student’s writing final exam was assessed according to
Jacobs et al.’s (1981) ESL Composition Profile. Based on that rubric, one overall score
(including their final exam score and their assignments inside and outside of the classroom),
out of 20, was given to each student to determine their writing performance.
Data Collection Procedures
In order to investigate the relationship between the participants’ gender, emotional
intelligence, and their writing performance, the following procedures were applied. To
commence the study and get the reliable data, 68 participants expressed their willingness to
take part in the study. However, for ensuring their homogeneity, a TOEFL test was
administered and, based on the results, 57 participants were selected as the main subjects of
the study. The reliability of the Bar-On EQ-i questionnaire was tested first and then
administered to check the baseline difference of the selected students’ emotional intelligence.
Consequently, these participants had their writing courses being taught by the same
professor. The participants were asked to submit their assignments such as essays and writing
samples per session. The final course scores, which consist of both the participants’ final
exam scores and their classroom portfolios and participation’s scores, were used as a measure
to determine the writing performance of the participants. Finally, the acquired data was fed
into Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS) for data analysis.
Design and Data Analysis
This study enjoyed an ex post facto Correlational design, in which the researcher had no
control over what has already happened to the participants. To provide answers to the
research questions, primarily, a descriptive analysis was run followed by one-sample
Kolmogorov-Smirnov test to check whether the mean scores of the participants’ TOEFL,
emotional intelligence, and writing scores were in normal distribution. Subsequently, three
Pearson correlation coefficients were administered, using SPSS version 16, in order to assess
whether a significant relationship exists among the variables of gender, emotional
intelligence, and writing scores. It is important to note that this analysis was used to respond
to research questions 1, 2, and 3. Moreover, an independent measures MANOVA (Multiple
Analysis of Variance) was run to analyze the interaction between emotional intelligence,
gender, and the students’ writing performance, and to answer research question 4.
Results of Pearson Correlation to Respond to the First Research Question
The first research question of the present study was whether there is any statistically
significant relationship between the students’ emotional intelligence and their writing
performance. A Pearson product moment correlation coefficient was utilized to examine this
research question. The results are indicated in Table 1.
According to Table 1, there was a positive correlation between the EI scores and writing
scores and this relationship is statistically significant since r = .75, N = 57, p <.05. This result
indicates that as the EI scores increased, the writing scores increased as well, and this
relationship is both significant and strong.
Results of Pearson Correlation to Respond to the Second Research Question
The second research question of the present study examined whether there is any statistically
significant relationship between the students’ gender and their emotional intelligence. Since
the obtained data were normal, it was feasible to run the Pearson product moment correlation
coefficient to investigate this research question. The results of this analysis are displayed in
Table 2. The Results of the Pearson Correlation Coefficient for EI Scores across Gender
Table 2 demonstrates that there is a strong positive correlation between the males’ EI
scores and the females’ EI scores, and this positive correlation is statistically significant, i.e.,
r = .98, p<.05. In other words, it means that as the female students’ EI scores increased, the
males’ EI scores increased as well, and this relationship is statistically significant.
Results of Pearson Correlation to Respond to the Third Research Question
The third research question of the present study was whether there is any statistically
significant relationship between the students’ gender and their writing performance. A
Pearson product moment correlation coefficient was run to explore this research question.
The results of this analysis are provided in Table 3.
Table 3. The Results of the Pearson Correlation Coefficient for the Writing Scores across Gender
Table 3 demonstrates that there is a positive and strong correlation between the males’
writing scores and the females’ writing scores, and this positive correlation is statistically
significant, i.e., r = .96, p< .05. In other words, it means that as the females’ writing scores
increased, the males’ writing scores increased, and this relationship is strong and statistically
Results of MANOVA Test to Respond to the Fourth Research Question
The last research question of the present study examined whether there is any
interaction between the students’ emotional intelligence, their gender, and writing
performance. In order to answer this question, a Multivariate Analysis of Variance
(MANOVA) was run. Table 4 indicates the main results of the Multivariate Test.
Table 4. The Results of the Multivariate Tests for Gender, Writing Performance, and EI
The results of Table 4 reveal that the writing scores and EI scores were together being
influenced by gender, since F (2.54) = 41.87, p<.05; Wilks’ lambda = 0.39. In other words, overall, a
significant effect of gender on both the writing performance and EI scores was observed. This
difference was also found to be meaningful since a relatively high effect size was obtained (ηp2=
0.67). In order to see where the differences lie, the test of between subject effects must be checked.
Table 5 reports the main results of the effect of gender on each of these two variables individually.
Table 5. The Effect of Gender on the Writing Performance and EI Scores
Table 5 reveals that there was a significant effect of gender on the EI scores since F (1,
55) = 24.83, p< .05; in other words, the females (with the mean of 473.30) had significantly
greater EI in comparison with the males (with the mean of 416.93). This difference was also
found to be meaningful due to the moderate effect size (ηp2= .31).
However, no significant effect of gender on the writing performance was found since F
(1, 55) =.19, p >.05. Therefore, it can be stated that although there was a slight difference in
the means of the writing scores for the males (with the mean of 17.83) and females (with the
mean of 18.01), this difference was not statistically significant, and both males and females
performed almost similarly in the writing test.
Based on the results, a significant difference was found between the males’ and
females’ EI scores while no significant difference was found between the males’ and
females’ writing scores.
In this section, the results of the present study are discussed in the light of previous studies
done on emotional intelligence and writing performance.
The first main finding of the study and the result of the first research question was the
positive relationship between the students’ emotional intelligence scores and their writing
scores. In other words, the students with higher emotional intelligence performed better on
their writing test. This finding is in line with that of Abdolrezapour (2013), Ghasemi, Behjat,
and Kargar (2013), and Shao, Yu, and Ji (2013) whose results revealed a relatively positive
relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) and writing performance. As Abdolrezapour
(2013), and Shao, Yu, and Ji (2013) concluded, literature-based activities, which include the
use of highly emotional short stories and talking about the students’ emotions and writing a
topic-related composition related to the story, have a significant positive effect on the EFL
students’ EI. Comparatively, Ghasemi, Behjat, and Kargar (2013, p. 205) came to the
conclusion that: “With the improvement of the EFL university students’ writing, their control
and management of their emotion increased. This leads to their better performances in their
writing tasks.” In addition, a great deal of literature has documented evidence supporting the
positive relationship between EI and academic success such as studies conducted by Parker et
al. (2004); and Parker, Summerfeldt, Hogan, and Majeski (2004).
One probable question that may be raised is how to explain the high correlation of the
students’ emotional intelligence and their writing scores. One plausible answer may be
related to the nature of writing in that the writer must take into account the goals of the
addressee in order to realize a meaningful and socially appropriate communication only
through words. This appropriate communication can be accomplished if the writer
understands the nature of writer-reader relationship and draws greatly on his or her
empathetic and social abilities. Considering the social and affective nature of EI and its great
role in cognitive functioning (Schutte, Schuetplez, & Malouff, 2001) and communication, it
can be plausible that the students with higher level of emotional intelligence would be able to
The second finding of the present study was the significant effect of participants’
gender on their EI scores in that the females had significantly greater EI in comparison with
the males. This finding is consistent with those of Davis, (2012), Harrod and Scheer (2005),
Sanchez-Nunez, Fernandez-Berrocal, Montanes, and Latorre (2008), Singh (2002), and Tapia
(1998), who all claimed that El scores tend to go down for males in comparison with the
Sanchez-Nunez et al. (2008) investigated the socialization of emotional competencies
in men and women and believed that women are more competent in their emotions compared
to men. Then, they provided some reasons. They stated that women are more emotionally
expressive than men, they understand emotions better and have greater abilities in certain
interpersonal skills. They can recognize the other people’s emotions better, be more
receptive, and have greater sympathy. Sanchez-Nunez et al. continued with the possible
explanations. One reason can be the fact that the parents talk more about emotions with their
girls more often than with their boys. The other one is related to the fact that girls develop
verbal skills earlier than boys. This means that they are more skillful in expressing their
emotions and are more experienced in using words. This causes girls to have richer and
greater verbal recourses. Therefore, girls have more information about the emotional world
and can speak more about the feelings and use more emotional words compared to boys.
Consequently, those girls are more proficient at understanding the verbal and non-verbal
emotional signs, communicating their emotions and getting other person’s feelings from the
face, voice, and through other non-verbal messages. Besides these competence differences,
Sanchez-Nunez et al. (2008) mentioned some differences in the females’ brain that is related
to the emotional function of the brain.
However, the findings of the present study conflicted with others (Bar-On, 2006;
Brackett & Mayer, 2003; Dawda & Hart, 2000; Lim, 2011; Schutte et al., 1998), who claimed
that there is no significant difference between males and females regarding their overall
emotional intelligence. For instance, Bar-On (2006) investigated the ESI of males and
females as measured by EQ-i. He asserted that no difference has been revealed between
males and females regarding their overall ESI. Although some statistically significant
differences were reported for a few factors, the effects were mainly small. Females were
more aware of their emotions than males while men were more adept at managing their
emotions than women. Dawda and Hart (2000) also found no gender differences for the EI
total score or the EI composite scales. They reported that the females’ EI scores were lower
than men on independence and optimism sub-scales and higher on social responsibility sub-scale. Interestingly, Ahmad, Bangash, and Khan (2009) stressed a popular belief that women
are more emotionally intelligent than men. Nevertheless, they are emotionally intelligent in
different ways. They stated that female participants are more aware of their emotions, more
empathetic, and skillful in their interpersonal communications. On the other hand, men are
more optimistic, adjustable, and self-assured. After taking all these similarities and
differences into account, the strengths and weaknesses average out revealing that both
genders are somehow similar in their emotional intelligence.
Finally, no significant relationship was found between the male and female students’
writing scores. Although there are few studies regarding gender differences and ESL/EFL
students’ written performance, the findings of the present study are consistent with those of
Hyde and Linn (1988) and Chiu (2008). Hyde and Linn (1988) investigated gender
differences in the students’ verbal ability by measuring the covered vocabulary, analogies,
reading comprehension, speech production, essay writing, anagrams, and general verbal
ability. They found no significant gender differences in the students’ essay writing. In another
study, Chiu (2008) investigated gender differences in EFL college writing. He studied non-English major undergraduates and came to this conclusion that female students wrote more
than male students in all four writing tests of his study. In other words, there was a significant
gender difference in the total amount of the four writing tests. Although female students
wrote better than male students, considering their total scores, the results showed that the
difference was not statistically significant. In contrast, the similarity of the males and
females’ writing performance, found in the present study, does not support Kann’s (2001)
study. Kann (2001, as cited in Chiu, 2008, p. 26) concluded, “girl students perform
significantly better than boy students in terms of content, organization, grammar, and
diction.” This difference may be due to the different brain functions in both genders
Conclusions and Implications
Recently, many studies were conducted on the relationship between emotional intelligence
and educational success, which demonstrated the positive influence of EI on the students’ and
teachers’ performance and achievements (Abdolrezapour, 2013; Abdolrezapour & Tavakoli,
2012; Alavinia, 2011; Fahim & Pishghadam, 2007; Shao, Yu, & Ji, 2013). Similarly, this
study indicated that the EFL students’ emotional intelligence is related to and affects their
Overall, it can be concluded that there was a positive relationship between the students’
emotional intelligence and their writing performance. Therefore, the students’ writing scores
can improve when they are more emotionally intelligent. Moreover, the students’ emotional
intelligence was influenced by their gender, which meant that female students were found to
have a greater EI score compared to their male counterparts. However, there was no
difference between the male and female students in terms of their writing performance.
The results revealed that emotional intelligence is correlated with the students’ writing
performance and has a positive influence on it. Consequently, it is logical to conclude that
English schools and language institutes should consider and make use of the ideologies,
methods, and activities of EI in the EFL classrooms in an effort to promote the students’
academic performance. However, it is important to notice the emotional intelligence
differences in males and females. Keeping in mind the lower emotional intelligence of the
male students, they require more training in EI compared with the females. Moreover, the
findings of the present study can be applicable to teacher training courses (TTC). In such
courses, future teachers can gain the teaching knowledge and techniques required to enhance
their students’ level of EI.
In addition, activities that raise the learners’ motivation and literature-based approaches
of teaching writing, as used by Abdolrezapour (2013), Rouhani (2008), and Shao, Yu, and Ji
(2013), provide materials designers and curriculum developers with examples of beneficial
emotional intelligence activities, which can be integrated into language textbooks and
classroom materials. Furthermore, Rouhani (2008) gave some suggestions for EI-based
syllabuses to consider some liberal arts, such as poetry, drama and stories, besides symbolic
and representational modeling and observation, in order to develop EI in the classroom.
The present study also has several implications for test developers. Test developers
should be aware of the test format they use, and whether the students’ performance is
affected by their emotional intelligence or their gender. In testing the performance of the EFL
students, the teachers must be aware of the differences among their students in terms of their
EI. In order to be fair, it is better to evaluate them by multiple procedures or different test
formats, so that a student who is good at one testing format will be neither advantaged nor
disadvantaged, and the obtained result will be comprehensive and reliable representing his or
Finally, more studies are required to investigate the effect of other influential factors on
the students’ EI or writing performance, such as age, social status, and ethnicity. Some other
studies are also suggested to investigate the impact of teachers’ EI on their classroom
teaching and the learners’ academic performance. This research study can also be replicated
by investigating the impact of the students’ EI on other language skills, such as speaking,
listening, and reading, using different tasks.