Emotions Affect Intelligence and Performance

By , Randolph, NJ

Emotions are something that every person has, but how each person controls and copes with them can be approached in many different ways. Different emotions can be driven by various causes, such as relationships with others, mood swings, and overall state of mind. Reactions and responses to different occurrences are sparked by emotions, and these emotions may be able to regulate or hinder other abilities within the body. In the science fiction novel, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, and in modern sources, authors explore how intelligence and performance are affected by emotions.


It is demonstrated in the science fiction novel, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, and the article, “Control Yourself” by Linda Geddes, that people’s work and performance are hindered by their emotions and relations with others, as it serves as a distraction. This is made evident in Flowers for Algernon, when the main character, Charlie Gordon, becomes distracted from his work by his feelings for his former teacher, Alice Kinnian. As the first human to have his intelligence increased through surgical procedures, Charlie is already under a tremendous amount of pressure to manage his studies. So, when Charlie tries to discover what his feelings mean, it creates even more of an obstacle for staying focused.  Charlie’s confusion with his emotions is evident when Keyes writes, “‘These feelings are new to you. Not everything has to    . . . be put into words’” (Keyes 75). Alice attempts to steer Charlie back towards his studies by telling him that it is not vital that he deciphers his feelings now. However, Charlie’s emotions still haunt him in the back of his mind, and he finds it difficult to handle them.  Therefore, the feelings continue to distract Charlie at certain periods of time during the span of his high intelligence. This idea of immaturity with emotions is also discussed in “Control Yourself.” The author describes emotional intelligence as something that has to be learned or acquired in a complicated process. This concept is demonstrated when Geddes writes, “‘None of us are born knowing the difference between feeling overwhelmed and worried, elated and ecstatic. It’s a language that has to be taught’” (qtd. in Geddes par. 14). The idea that emotions need to be regulated in order to not be a distraction is emphasized when it is compared to “a language that has to be taught.” Both works support a common idea that when one attempts to control their emotions, it serves as a major distraction in accomplishing or completing tasks.


Flowers for Algernon and June M.L. Poon’s article, “Career Commitment and Success: Moderating Role of Emotion Perception,” both show how emotions can also create positive effects for a person in their intelligence and performance. In Flowers for Algernon as Charlie’s intelligence becomes more and more advanced, he starts to learn how to control his emotions.  Although it was mentioned before that this created a distraction for Charlie, when he finally became educated in regulating his emotions, it was actually rather helpful. This was because once he knew how to handle his emotions, he could then control himself not to worry over them or become overwhelmed by them. By doing this, his thoughts about his emotions did not overpower his focus to his studies. When Charlie takes some independent time, Keyes writes, “It’s hard to keep from calling her [Alice]. I’ve started and stopped myself several times. I’ve got to keep away from her” (Keyes 158). Charlie’s self-control is displayed here, when he refrains from reaching out to Alice and instead resumes his attention to his studies. An act of maturity is shown when he tells himself “I’ve got to keep away from her.” Charlie’s actions support the concept that being able to regulate emotions can lead to better focus and performance.  This is similarly demonstrated in an article by June M.L. Poon. The author highlights aspects that can result from the regulation of emotions. These components are discussed when Poon writes, “People who are emotionally intelligent are able to recognize and use their own emotional states as well as that of others to regulate behavior and deal with the environment” (Poon 376). Poon makes the claim that if one can control his/her emotions, then he/she can use this ability to “regulate behavior and deal with the environment.” These two factors are crucial to maintain focus and effectively produce quality work. Furthermore, if one can master his/her emotions and has the ability to keep them in check, then one will be able to perform better with keen focus and produce better results.


Flowers for Algernon and the article, “Is Emotional Intelligence an Advantage? An Exploration of the Impact of Emotional and General Intelligence on Individual Performance” by Laura Thi Lam and Susan L. Kirby, both display how a person’s overall morals and character are also affected by emotions, driving the questioning of his/her abilities. In Flowers for Algernon when Charlie’s intelligence begins growing rapidly, he expects he will soon have the answers to everything.  However, he soon realizes that this is not the case. He ponders the value of his intelligence and if his intelligence has a limit. He comes to a conclusion that issues in his social and emotional life cannot be resolved like an equation, and that this is where the limits of his intelligence lie. When Charlie reflects on this to Alice, Keyes writes, “‘But the deeper I get tangled up in this mass of dreams and memories the more I realize that emotional problems can’t be solved as intellectual problems are’” (Keyes 186). This deduction shows another burst of Charlie’s emotional maturity. It also shows us how his emotions caused him to wonder about his intelligence versus his emotions. In a modern article by Laura Thi Lam and Susan L. Kirby, this idea is supported and discussed in a coherent manner. When the authors are proposing components of emotional intelligence, Thi Lam and Kirby write, “emotional intelligence is a form of intelligence that involves ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’” (qtd. in Thi Lam and Kirby 135). The authors make the case that one’s ability to regulate his/her emotions can be used to “guide one’s thinking and actions.” A person will think about his/her morals and may even have a change in character as a result of management of emotions.  One might question his/her abilities at a mature, reasonable level, causing one to rise to his/her full potential. People will frequently question if what they are doing is most suitable for them, and often, emotions are what drive this pondering.
Flowers for Algernon and modern sources explore how emotions serving as a distraction, emotions playing the role of an aid, and emotions acting as a gateway for wondering are ways emotions affect intelligence and performance. Charlie faces all of these results from his emotions, and his feelings for Alice Kinnian play a significant role in this. Similarly to Charlie’s experiences, modern sources analyze the impact that emotions can have on humans. The analysis of how performance and intelligence are influenced by human emotions can also be applied to the real world. People do not realize it, but emotions are a vital factor not just in simply intelligence, but in most aspects of everyday life. When people learn to effectively manage their emotions and ignore the distractions that come with them, they are more intelligent and better equipped to perform tasks.


Works Cited
Geddes, Linda. “Control Yourself.” New Scientist 229.3054 (2016): 40-43. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.
Keyes, Daniel, and Andrew Bujalski. Flowers for Algernon: Daniel Keyes. New York, Spark Pub., 2002.
Poon, June M. L. “Career Commitment and Career Success: Moderating Role of Emotion Perception.” Career
Thi Lam, Laura, and Susan L. Kirby. “Is Emotional Intelligence an Advantage? An Exploration of the Impact of Emotional and General Intelligence on Individual Performance.” The Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 142, no. 1, 2002., pp. 133-43 ProQuest AP Science; Research Library,






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