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Abstract from journal article: "Emotional intelligence and the identification of emotion," by John Mayer and Glen Geher, in Intelligence, Vol. 22 (2), Mar-Apr 1996, 89-114.
Copy of an interview with John Mayer from Psychology Today, July/August 1999
Abstract and my notes from journal article: "Emotional intelligence and the identification of emotion," by John Mayer and Glen Geher, in Intelligence, Vol. 22 (2), Mar-Apr 1996, 89-114.
This article is concerned with individual differences in the ability to connect thoughts to emotions. People who are good at connecting thoughts to feelings may better "hear" the emotional implications of their own thoughts, as well as understand the feelings of others from what they say. We had 321 participants read the writings of a target group of people and guess what those targets had felt. Several criteria were used to evaluate the participants' emotional recognition abilities, including agreement with the group consensus and agreement with the target. Participants who agreed more highly with the group consensus and with the target also scored higher than the other participants on scales of empathy and self-reported SAT scores, and lower on emotional defensiveness. Such results are interpreted to mean that some forms of emotional problem solving require emotional openness as well as general intelligence.
My notes from the article: (S. Hein Feb. 2001)
Summary - There were significant correlations found between the ability to identify emotions from written stories and empathy, openness/defensiveness, and SAT scores. In other words, the implications are that people who are able to identify emotions from the written thoughts of others are more likely to also be more empathetic, more open (ie non-defensive) and intellectually smarter. Likewise, people who are more empathetic and intellectually smarter are better able to identify emotions from written stories. Defensive people will be less able to identify emotion accurately.
Details from the article:
- article is concerned with the ability to identify emotions from thoughts
- Emotional intelligence is a sub-category of social intelligence.
- It is closely related to what others have called "intrapersonal intelligence", "hot processing" and "emotional creativity"
- "... the ability to recognize emotions is basic to a person's emotional well-being..." p. 90
- "... a person who is unable to connect her thoughts to her own emotions.." may appear "...irrational and demanding.
- "A person...who can 'hear' the emotions in another's thoughts may excel at handling certain social demands." p 91
- article mentions correlations between thoughts, perceptions and emotions which "stem from emotional appraisals of events" and offers three sources of reading on this topic
- some people are better at "recognizing and/or producing appropriate thought-emotion combinations than others." Possible reasons are 1) better cognitive processing skills 2) more open to their own and others' emotional reactions or 3) more expert knowledge concerning such connections p 91
- In the study subjects were given transcripts of real people's thoughts, then asked to name the emotions behind those thoughts with the question "...how is that person feeling?" p 91
- The authors "hypothesize that the ability to know other people's emotions is related to other indices of emotional intelligence, such as empathy, openness and general intelligence." p 91
- Authors say this is the first time such a study has been done, though other studies have asked people to identify emotions from pictures of faces and in other situations.
- Authors of this article (like others doing related work) are interested in the "accurate identification of emotion." "Common among such studies are three related issues: (a) what is the best criterion of what the target is feeling, (b) what is the best language with which to describe emotionality, and (c) what sorts of personality variables may be related to the ability to identify emotion?" (ie correlates of emotional intelligence) Each of these issues is then discussed briefly.
Issue (a) -- the best way to judge what another person is feeling
- it was noted that people do not always report their own feelings accurately (A study by Ekman found the correlation to around .30 with a range of -10 to .60) Other studies found that non-expert observers often did not accurately judge the feelings of a person they were actually talking to in a "dyadic interaction." For example, Ickes found in 1990 that the correlations between what the observer reported the person they were talking to (the target) and what the target felt were entirely not significant. pp 93-94
Other ways of trying to identify (or more closely guess) how someone else is feeling are through the use of a consensus approach or the use of an "expert." Each of these methods is very briefly discussed. (In another study Mayer helped write about this issue is discussed in more detail.
Issue (b) -- best language of emotional reports p 94
This issues is concerned with how to label emotion.
Four ways are 1) pure emotion terms such as happy 2) physical terms such as smiling and 3) more cognitive terms such as appreciated 4) terms that "depict physical or mental acts closely related to emotion such as dance around
"Initial research into emotional identification was often limited to a narrow view of the emotional lexicon." p 95
The authors of the present study used "scales of emotional experience that were closed ended, and yet sampled broadly from diverse emotion-related lexicons, including those drawn from domains of cognitive appraisals, physiological sensations, pure emotions, or emotion management." p 95
Issue (c) --Personality Dimensions Related to emotional intelligence (ie Correlates of EI)
Authors look at measures of empathy, defense (which they predict will have a negative correlation to empathy) and self-reported SAT scores.
Details are given about the research design and methods beginning on p 96
Description of a scale to measure the accuracy of emotion identification (the Emotion Accuracy Research Scale - EARS) on p 99
Description of Present Reaction Scale (PRS) on p. 101
Empathy was measured using the 1972 Mehrabian-Epstein empathy scale and the 1983 Davis empathy scale. First scale gives one score, (Davis scale measures (a) emphatic concern (b) fantasy (c) personal distress (d) perspective taking
Defensiveness was measured using 1960 Marlow-Crowne scale of social desirability and 1972 Kohn scale of authoritarianism.
Defensiveness was hypothesized to correlate negatively with empathy since "defenses divert or foreshorten the processing necessary to make correct decisions about feeling." (I am not comfortable with this explanation, especially with the word "correct." I would simply say when we are feeling defensive our own survival is the most important thing on our minds.)
In the "results" section of the article reliability and technical issues are discussed starting on page 103. Then the findings are presented. These findings supported the authors' hypotheses about empathy, defensiveness and IQ as possible correlates to EI.
It was also found that there was no significant correlation between the target and group consensus reports. (p 108, 109)
I suspect this could be from the choices were presented and that more specific feeling words would help both targets and the group choose the "correct" feeling word. To me, the choices could definitely be improved. One problem I see is mixing feeling words (such as hostile, fearful) with actions, descriptions of situations and physical responses.
The fact that the people writing the stories did not agree with the group could suggests a problem in the design of the choices. Though, it could also be an indication that people simply often do not know how they feel.
Something else I notice in these choices is some are so different that the "correct" answers would seem obvious. How could any one not choose correctly between mad and delighted, for example? On the other hand some choices were not clear at all. For example, cheated and my teeth clenched, since it is possible one could clench one's teeth when they feel cheated. Also, someone could feel scared for someone else and want to withdraw themselves at the same time.
Examples of choices were: (p 98 and 100)
be by myself - kick something
stomping feet - alone
pretend everything is okay - threaten a fight
angry for someone else - help a friend
evade feeling - defiant
sharing another's anger - threatened with death
hostile - unhappy for another
fearful - apart from others
cheated - my teeth clenched
withdraw - scared for someone else
attacked - isolate myself
mad - delighted
dared - isolate myself
act as if no problem - lively
chuckling - angry for someone else
The authors suggest part of the reason the targets did not report their feelings the same way the group did is because the targets wanted to say things which were more "socially desirable." Therefore the authors suggest future researchers "make a distinction between how the target might say they feel, as contrasted with how they actually feel.
In the Future Research section of the article the authors say:
Earlier, we argued that the ability to predict emotions from thought will deliver a social advantage to an individual. High scorers on the EARS should therefore have advantages in certain life tasks.... In addition, we would predict they would have better, longer term intimate relationships, and better work histories within their occupation. If so, then it may be possible to educate those who are low in this skill to raise their ability levels and therefore better recognize the feelings of others,. Exactly how demanding such a learning process is remains unknown...It may well be worth the cost to obtain such positive social outcomes; the costs and benefits of such changes can be better evaluated by developing improved measures of emotional intelligence such as the one here, and studying the relation of such measures to the desired criteria.
Copy of an interview with John Mayer from Psychology Today, July/August 1999, Vol. 32 Issue 4, p20. *
Abstract: An interview with John Mayer discussing the claim that emotional intelligence (EI) is the key to success, about whether EI can be taught, about possible coercion at work, and about EI and negative states like depression.
Interviewd by Robert Epstein, Ph.D.
Title: The Key to Our Emotions
"Emotional intelligence" has been touted as the key
to success in all
spheres of life: school, work, relationships. But according to Jack
Mayer, Ph.D., who originated the concept of EI with Yale psychologist
Peter Salovey, Ph.D., we still have a lot to learn about this skill.
Mayer, a psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire,
recently spoke with PT contributing editor Robert Epstein to clarify
the uses and meanings of El.
PT: What exactly is "emotional intelligence"?
JM: It's a group of mental abilities which help you recognize and
understand your own feelings and others'. Ultimately, El leads to the
ability to regulate your feelings.
PT: So this is an intellectual skill. It's not just having feelings,
but being able to understand what they mean.
JM: There are two sides to it. One side involves the intellect
understanding emotion. The other side involves emotion reaching into
the intellectual system and bringing about creative thoughts and
ideas. That second side is hardest to pin down in the lab. But we
believe it exists.
PT: Can emotional intelligence be learned?
JM: It doesn't make sense to me to talk about teaching an
intelligence, although I know many people use that phrase. If
emotional intelligence is like most other abilities, it is shaped
partly by genetics and partly by environment. I like to talk about
teaching knowledge. And I think it makes sense to talk about teaching
emotional knowledge. I use this analogy: We don't say, "Can you learn
math intelligence?" We say, "Can you learn algebra?" because we don't
make our kids derive algebra from basic principles. We teach them
about math as we understand it. It's the same thing with emotional
intelligence. You don't have to rediscover all the rules of emotion on
your own--no one has enough intelligence to do that. Rather, you can
be taught what different feelings might mean and how they relate to
yourself and others.
PT: What's wrong with the popular conception of emotional
JM: The popular presentation of EI is so different from the research
we've been doing. Emotional intelligence is often defined as a list of
traits such as optimism, persistence and warmth. Then, claims are made
about how important those are. I've become concerned about people who
are going through any sort of El program that is urging them to be as
cheerful, happy and energetic as possible at work. No doubt there are
a few people who are going to be helped that way, probably those
people who are already upbeat and optimistic. But I think it is
coercive to dictate how people are supposed to feel at work or other
places, especially since these qualities are unrelated to many
occupations. It's coercion without a genuinely useful agenda.
It is true that some salespeople can be helped by being optimistic and
extroverted and so forth. But that's not necessarily a requirement for
lawyers or teachers. And even in the case of salespeople, although
optimism does predict success, it is not all that is important or
PT: So does having EI guarantee that you're always in control of your
JM: I'd like to think that El is independent of emotional state. I
think you can be depressed and have high emotional intelligence,
because everyone has a very good reason to be sad or depressed at some
point or another. Given two people with negative emotions, I think the
person with EI will climb out of his or her funk over the long term,
though it won't necessarily be quick or easy. I would expect people to
be sad and distressed at times--it is part of the human condition--and
so emotionally intelligent people will be that way, too.
* (Please buy a copy of Psychology Today so they won't sue me for lifting this!)