Training in emotional intelligence actually works

A new study shows that training in emotional intelligence (EI) – the ability to understand and manage one’s own and other people’s emotions – actually works. Delphine Nelis and colleagues said their finding has profound implications given the number of positive outcomes, including improved health and occupational success, that are known to be associated with having greater emotional intelligence (one recent study even linked EI to orgasm frequency in women!)

Nineteen students undertook the training, whilst 18 others formed a control group and carried on life as normal. The training – 4 weekly sessions lasting 2.5 hours each plus homework – was theoretically grounded and aimed to improve the understanding of emotions, identifying emotions, expressing and using emotions and managing emotions.

After training and at 6-month follow-up, the training students but not the control students showed improvements in aspects of “trait” emotional intelligence normally considered immutable, including improvement in emotion identification and emotion management (of self and others’ emotions). Surprisingly perhaps, “emotional understanding” showed no improvement.

“Overall these results are promising,” the researchers said, “as they suggest that, with a proper methodology relying on the latest scientific knowledge … some facets of EI can be enhanced but not all.”

Nelis and her colleagues said their findings could have potential application in health, educational and organisational settings but they acknowledged their study had a number of major limitations. These include the fact that the control group undertook no special activity, so any effects observed for the EI training could be caused by non-specific factors, such as the simple benefit that can come from taking part in group activities.

ResearchBlogging.orgNelis, D., Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Hansenne, M. (2009). Increasing emotional intelligence: (How) is it possible? Personality and Individual Differences, 47 (1), 36-41 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.01.046

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

4 thoughts on “Training in emotional intelligence actually works”

  1. Erk, not sure about this. The control group had no intervention so any apparant group differeneces could just be the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">“Hawthorne” effect…<>

  2. the idea of educating people about theirs and others emotions is great and one that deserves research. A lot of ‘mental illness’ in adult life could be removed if emotional wellbeing was taught in schools.

  3. Whilst this could be a representation of the Hawthorne effect it supports one of the key things in life. I “discovered” this for myself years ago when I spotted a typo in the bible! It should read “do unto others as should be done unto them!”

  4. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own emotions and those of people around you. Emotional intelligence is sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or emotional literacy. Individuals with emotion intelligence are able to relate to others with compassion and empathy, have well-developed social skills and use this emotional awareness to direct their actions and behaviour.

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