"Although we know that high intelligence and a conscientious personality are the most important psychological traits necessary for academic success, our research highlights a third factor, emotional intelligence, that may also help students succeed," said Carolyn MacCann, PhD, of the University of Sydney and lead author of the study.
She further added, "It's not enough to be smart and hardworking. Students must also be able to understand and manage their emotions to succeed at school."
According to MacCann, the study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin would be the first comprehensive meta-analysis on whether higher emotional intelligence relates to academic success or not.
Between 1998 and 2019, MacCann and her colleagues took data of various students regardless of age that showed that the students with higher emotional intelligence tended to get higher grades and better achievement test scores than those with lower emotional intelligence success.
As for why emotional intelligence can affect academic performance, MacCann believes in a number of factors.
"Students with higher emotional intelligence may be better able to manage negative emotions, such as anxiety, boredom and disappointment, that can negatively affect academic performance," she said.
She added, "these students may be better able to manage the social world around them, forming better relationships with teachers, peers and family, all of which are important to academic success."
According to the research, emotional intelligence is about understanding human motivation and emotion, which would be beneficial in tackling a subject like history and language.
MacCann cautions against widespread testing of students to identify and target those with low emotional intelligence as it may stigmatize those students. Instead, she recommends interventions that involve the whole school, including additional teacher training and a focus on teacher well-being and emotional skills.