Exploring Emotional Intelligence: Part 2

Costanza Scarpa | 22 July 2014

Amanda Vincent, a Psychology student at York University, used Realeyes technology as the basis of her BSc dissertation. For those interested in the science behind her work, here she explains the scope of her project, and its results.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a concept in psychology used to explain how people differ in their understanding, regulation and use of emotional content in regards to themselves or others. First proposed by Mayer and Salovey in 1995 (1), EI is said to include the “accurate appraisal of one’s own emotions and the expression of emotion” (2). In other words, people differ in how expressive they are overall and in their ability in correctly expressing contextually appropriate emotions (3). Past studies have shown a correlation between EI and the ability to decode the facial expressions produced by others, which in turn correlates to an individual's own ability to correctly express their emotion, also known as sending accuracy (4). In addition, a recent study by Stephen Porter and his colleagues (5) on deception showed that people with high EI were better at simulating false emotions but also displayed longer leakage of felt emotions when asked to display both genuine and deceptive emotions, suggesting that they may have better sending ability and be more expressive. 

However no study had directly looked at whether different EI scores show different levels of expressivity and sending accuracy, so that’s exactly what I decided to do. 243 participants were recruited to complete a trait emotional intelligence questionnaire (6) and watch two videos: one intended to induce strong feelings of disgust and the other of happiness, while their emotional expressions were parsed by the Realeyes software. Results of those scoring in the upper and lower quartile in the EI questionnaire were compared, revealing that those with high EI were significantly more expressive both in the happy and disgust conditions and showed better sending accuracy of happiness in the positive condition, while those with low EI showed greater sending accuracy of disgust in the negative condition.

Thus, Mayer and Salovey’s prediction that those with high EI are more accurate at expressing their emotions was only partly supported. Perhaps it is the case that those with higher EI are simply more expressive, as shown in Porter's study, or that those with high EI are better senders of positive emotions, whereas those with low EI are better senders of negative emotions. This is the first study to ever look at this link directly, so unfortunately I don’t have all the answers. I have however hopefully managed to raise a few interesting issues regarding the field of nonverbal behaviour, such as the question of whether emotional intelligence is a further individual difference impacting how expressive we are to emotional content and the importance of empirical research to back up this claim - especially considering the small industry generated by EI tests used in research, education and business settings (7). In addition, EI has been found to be a predictor of life satisfaction (8), work performance (9), affect intensity (10) and mental health (11). So if expressivity is an important factor in this, could we accustom ourselves to be more expressive, and perhaps in turn happier and more successful? More research is needed in this field to address this, which with the help of the advanced emotion recognition software available today allows for for an unbiased and highly accurate measurement of facial expressions.

Amanda Vincent, BSc Psychology (York)

(1) Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1995). Emotional intelligence and the construction and regulation of feelings. Applied and preventive psychology, 4(3), 197-208.
(2) Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000). Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test Personal Summary Report. Retrieved from http://www.harrisconsult.com/files/MSCEIT%20report.PDF
(3) Notarius, C. I., & Levenson, R. W. (1979). Expressive tendencies and physiological response to stress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,37 (7), 1204.
(4) Petrides, K. V., & Furnham, A. (2003). Trait emotional intelligence: Behavioural validation in two studies of emotion recognition and reactivity to mood induction. European Journal of Personality, 17(1), 39-57.
(5) Porter, S., Brinke, L. T., Baker, A., & Wallace, B. (2011). Would I lie to you? “Leakage” in deceptive facial expressions relates to psychopathy and emotional intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(2), 133-137.
(6) Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire Short Form (TEIQue-SF) obtained from http://www.psychometriclab.com/Default.aspx?Content=Page&id=14
(7) Matthews, G., Zeidner, M., & Roberts, R. D. (2004). Emotional Intelligence: Science and Myth. MIT Press.
(8) Martinez-Pons, M. (2000). Emotional intelligence as a self-regulatory process: A social cognitive view. Imagination Cognition and Personality,19(4), 331-350.
(9) Van Rooy, D. L., & Viswesvaran, C. (2004). Emotional intelligence: A meta-analytic investigation of predictive validity and nomological net. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65(1), 71-95.
(10) Dawda, D., & Hart, S. D. (2000). Assessing emotional intelligence: Reliability and validity of the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) in university students. Personality and Individual Differences, 28(4), 797-812.
(11) Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Thorsteinsson, E. B., Bhullar, N., & Rooke, S. E. (2007). A meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between emotional intelligence and health. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(6), 921-933.
Costanza Scarpa
Marketing Communications Executive