Students who are better able to understand and manage their emotions effectively, a skill known as emotional intelligence, do better at school than their less skilled peers, as measured by grades and standardized test scores, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“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. “It’s not enough to be smart and hardworking. Students must also be able to understand and manage their emotions to succeed at school.”

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The research was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

The concept of emotional intelligence as an area of academic research is relatively new, dating to the 1990s, according to MacCann. Although there is evidence that social and emotional learning programs in schools are effective at improving academic performance, she believes this may be the first comprehensive meta-analysis on whether higher emotional intelligence relates to academic success.

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