Personality, Society and Behavior: Critique

Personality, Society and Behavior:  Critique

Can individual differences predict emotional processing abilities?

Emotional processing is a common phenomenon in all humans. However, the way in which individuals process materials varies with all of them. Emotional intelligence, shortened as EI is the new construct providing a baseline for emotional processing.  In accordance to Mayer and Salovey (1990) emotional intelligence is defined as the ability of an individual to monitor his or her own, as well as other people’s emotions and feelings. Individuals use this aspect in discriminating amongst themselves and using this information in guiding their own actions and thinking (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p189). The definition is now categorized into two categories that is trait verses performance.

Emotional intelligence claims to evaluate the emotional processing, yet there are a few number of studies that has examined this aspect on how this trait EI measures relate to other performance based tests  of emotional processing. Provided that cognitive intelligence is depicted to be relating  the processing of information and information time, (Deary, 2000), it may appear logical  to express that Emotional  Intelligence  will forecast  scores based on the measure of emotional ability, such as identifying facial  expressions.

Some of the measures of emotional intelligence includes the Palmer and Stough (2001)), Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test (SUEIT, the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i; Bar, the Salovey Mayer Caruso Emotional intelligence Test (MSCEIT; Mayer, Salovey & Caruso, 2001); the Toronto Alexithymia Scale 20 item version (TAS-20; Bagby, Taylor, & Parker, 1994); the Trait Meta-mood Scale, and the Tett  emotional intelligence measure (Tett, 1997).

In   human beings, various aspects in an individual’s voice, touch, posture and other non verbal expressions could be used in identifying emotions. These aspects could in particular be used in recognizing individual emotions. Among these elements, the facial expressions is the most conspicuous and notable one. A number of studies have been conducted to ascertain emotions from faces for instance, (Damasio, 1994, Darwin, 1872; Izard, 1971; Ekman et al., 1969; Tomkins, 1962).  Early studies were concerned on whether there were globally identifiable emotions, and whether these emotions were universally expressed. More recent studies on this aspect have been concerned on static faces, and some scholars have emphasised on studies in the eye region (Baron-Cohen et al, 2001, choice, Ambadar, Schooler & Cohn, 2005).

A study carried out by Stewart et all, (2004) was focused on testing whether there is any correlation between autistic traits and emotional processing across a broad range of measures used in evaluating  the various aspects of emotional processing.  The scholars argue that the, measures employed will   be used to better indicate whether there is an overall competence in emotional capabilities.  A sample from Heriot-Watt University students (n=116) were employed to take part in the test. The mean age of this sample was 21.1 years. The number of males was 36 while those of females were 80.

The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) was administered to these students   and which were specifically designed to measure the level individuals with normal intelligence IQ possess the ASC related traits. The test in the questionnaires contained 50 items that were constituted by ten questions evaluating five subscales: communication, social skills, imagination, attention to switching, and attention to detail. The likert scorecard was used to indicate the scores.

With regard to reading the mind in the eye test, a series of photographs wee presented to the participants. They were asked to choose one from the choice of four words describing the thoughts of the person in the photo.  The test constituted a number of 36 items.  The Mill hill vocabulary scale was used to assess the verbal IQ of the individual.

Repeated measures of MANOVA in the study established a significant variation across the conditions for accuracy. In this study, participants appeared to be more accurate at recognizing emotion from sentences that were harmonious with the vocal emotion than say, from either neutral or incongruent sentences. In addition, participants in this study were not accurate at recognizing emotions when the means of the verbal words were incongruent compared to when it was neutral to the vocal emotions.  A faster extraction of emotional prosodic cues could be confirmed by studies indicating that prosodic emotional meaning is in most cases  activated  before the emotional semantic information  is retrieved from the  expressions (Bostanov and Kotchoubey, 2004; Schirmeret al., 2002, 2005).

Aside from studies confirming that emotional prosody influences word processing and interpreting sentences (Bostanov and Kotchoubey, Kitayama and Ishii, 2002 Nygaard and Lunders, 2002; 2), other evidence also indicates that emotional prosody influences individual’s decisions on visual aspects. Research has shown that facial expressions are processed effectively when followed by an emotionally congruent rather than incongruent stimulus (Paulmann and Pell, 2010 Carroll and Young, 2005; Pell, 2005a, b) and vice versa (Hietanen et al., 2004, DeGelder and Vroomen, 2000). The emotions in facial expressions also influence the decisions with regard to emotional connation of sound (Thompson et al., 2008). The emotional cross modal congruence influence on information processing are related with the activation of emotional concepts or emotional units in associative memory. This refers to the discrete emotional states and in most cases is activated by events which are associated with the visual and auditory modalities (Bower, 1981; Russell and Lemay, 2000 Carroll and Young, 2005; Niedenthal andHalberstadt, 1995; Innes-Ker and Niedenthal, 2002; Pell, 2005).

The underlying assumptions in this aspect are that as the extra information primes an emotional conception; it becomes more reachable, resulting into easier facilitation or partisan processing of emotionally congruency as opposed to incongruent stimuli. This assumption fits well with the finding of this study  as  well as other  recent studies that have been conducted on this aspect, that emotional recognition appears to be faster and accurate in circumstances where multimodal cues are present (Paulmann et al., 2009; Scherer, 1989 Paulmann and Pell, 2011 Scherer, 1989).

The findings by Bocanegra and Zeelenberg (2010) also supported those of Stewart et al. The researchers had examined how visually and auditor ally presented emotions and neutral expressions influenced decisions in a task involving two alternative identification. In their test I, spoken expressions were presented to participants and then preceded with a visually masked target word, and then a visual presentation of alternatives of two choices. The findings were that the participants were at a better position recognizing neutral target words when auditory cue expressions were emotions compared to being neutral.  Experiment 2   in this study also confirmed this notion by establishing that, emotional cues influenced individual’s recognitions of the visual targets. These findings indicate the differential influences of emotions within individuals as compared to cross modality processing. This aspect ought to be taken into consideration when interpreting the impact of emotional prosody on visual and emotional studies.


This study has provided an insight on how internal humanistic features such as the nose, eyes, and mouth are crucial in identifying familiar faces (Bonner and Burton, 2004). The configuration of the mouth and the eyes plays an important role in identifying for instance, normal upright faces.  Researchers such Kakigi (2005), Miki, and Watana (2005) established that the mouth and eye movements were crucial for perceiving the facial expressions of emotions and processed in the same area of the brain.  While numerous studies confirm the essentiality of the mouth and eyes in identifying facial expressions and emotions, there is some evidence that facial features are also holistically processed (Carbon, and Leder 2005). Davies and Hoffman (2004) noted that the facial expressions can alter attention. Also inversion influences attention to faces. Ohman and Lundqvist (2005) observed that emotions influences individual’s attention.


Although the findings from Steward etal confirm those of other recent scholars on emotional prosody, the study does not however evaluate the correlation of disparate emotional processing tests. The authors argue that emotion recognition tasks, emotional theory of mind and emotional intelligence are not correlated.  The nature of the sample (all university students) may have triggered the lack of correlation between the emotional theory of mind, emotional intelligence as well as emotional recognition tasks.

Theoretical connections between the theory of mind and emotional knowledge have been previously established by other scholars. For instance, a study by Qualter and Barlow, (2011) examined these correlations by use of trait and ability emotional intelligence.  The study pointed out that only ability EI and standardized language evaluation was correlated to the false belief in cognition. The finding of this study support many other findings articulating the connection between emotional perception, labeling and the theory of mind. The study also offered new insights on increased emotional knowledge which could be evaluated with EI is correlated with advanced theory of mind.  Therefore, this study adds to the account of the correlation between the theory of mind and EI measures.

Scholars and theorists have gone far to point that all human beings possess the necessary tools for proficient nonverbal decoding (Gibson, 1979), and that the people’s variation in emotional recognition is simply the variations in the motivation in attending the non verbal cues (Buck, 1988). Even without going any further, it is still paramount to consider on how experimental assessment of ability may be used inadvertently as a measure of motivation and attention in understanding the others verbal and emotional expressions.

Emotional intelligence assessment are related to speed of emotional recognition (Austin, 2004, Furnham, 2003)  , however in the  study by Steward et al,  this feature is not related to at least one emotional recognition from the voice or  emotional theory of mind. The emotional recognition task in this study is different to those typically assessed in emotional intelligence studies. The correlation between emotional recognition EI could be used to test the speed at which a person will be able to identify an emotion instead of testing the accuracy alone. There may be many elements which would affect a relationship including variations in task demands.  Studies on emotional intelligence recognize both performance and trait measures. Both measures may relate more to social aspects of emotional processing ability. For example, one of the measures in ability may be divided into four branches of emotional intelligence, facilitating thoughts, perceiving emotions, managing emotions and understanding emotions.  These may relate more to how a one associates with others in the social world rather than to for example precision in identifying emotions.


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