Tag Archives: emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence makes better doctors — but bossy doctors lose empathy

Among the qualities that make an excellent physician, emotional intelligence ranks pretty high.

A senior woman receiving a vaccination shot from her doctor — showing empathy towards patients can go a long way towards making them feel better. Image credits: CDC/ Judy Schmidt

Emotional intelligence, a lot of which can be manifested as empathy, revolves around understanding your emotions and the emotions of people around you. According to a new study, emotional intelligence can not only lead to better doctor-patient relationships but also help make physicians more resilient to the stresses of the profession and less likely to experience burnout. But there’s an interesting trade-off.

Scientists from Loyola University Medical Center found that young physicians as a group have a median score of 110, compared to an average score of 100 for the entire population. There were no significant differences between males and females.

For the study, the team recruited 31 pediatric and 16 med-peds residents at Loyola. A resident is a physician who has finished his medical school and currently practicing in a hospital under the supervision of an attending physician. A med-ped doctor combines pediatrics and internal medicine.

Residents in their third and fourth years of training scored higher in assertiveness (109) than residents in their first and second years (100), which can perhaps be attributed to the skills they gathered in the extra training years, as well as the confidence they gained during their training. But interestingly, as assertiveness continued to increase, emotional intelligence started to drop — from 115.5 in the first two years, to 110 in the 3rd and 4th year. This forces a very interesting and difficult question: does assertiveness come at the risk of empathy? Does it mean that the “bossier” we get, the more we lose our ability understand others? If so, then focusing on emotional intelligence for people in leadership positions would be much more important. Or is it simply that medical students lose some of their empathy along the way? Whatever the case is, the implications are intriguing.

The thing is, unlike IQ, emotional intelligence can be taught. This study indicates that investing a course or two in emotional intelligence could make a big difference in the well-being of the doctors, as well as the patients. The authors also carried out four workshops on emotional intelligence with study participants and found that even such a short intervention can make a big difference. Perhaps

“Educational interventions to improve resident emotional intelligence scores should focus on the areas of independence, assertiveness and empathy,” authors write. “These interventions should help them become assertive but should ensure they do not lose empathy.”

Journal Reference: Ramzan Shahid, Jerold Stirling, William Adams. Assessment of Emotional Intelligence in Pediatric and Med-Peds Residents. Journal of Contemporary Medical Education, 2016; 4 (4): 153 DOI: 10.5455/jcme.20170116015415

Higher emotional intelligence can make you more vulnerable to stress — if you’re a dude

Emotional intelligence can be a double edged sword, a new study has found — while it can attune you to the feelings of those around you, helping you interact with them better, it can also make you more predisposed to risk, the team reports.

Image credits Ryan McGuire.

We all know that having good social wits — emotional intelligence — is a really big boost for all your social endeavors. But does it only bring advantages to the table, or are there drawbacks to be had as well? To find out, psychologists Myriam Bechtoldt and Vanessa Schneider of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany assessed 166 male students’ levels of emotional intelligence by asking them a series of questions to assess. For example, the participants were asked to look at photographs of faces and then estimate what emotions they were conveying, and to what degrees.

The same students then had to hold a mock job interview in front of judges who displayed stern facial expressions. To asses their levels of stress, the team measured cortisol (stress hormone) concentrations in the participants’ saliva before and after the talk. Students who rated higher on the emotional intelligence scale in the photo trial showed greater levels of cortisol during the second experiment and took longer to drop down to baseline levels.

Just like too much of a good thing can turn toxic, the findings suggest that some people simply could be too emotionally intelligent for their own good. By tuning in to others’ emotions so accurately, they become highly sensitive to their effects, which can put them under a lot of stress. Some sensitive individuals may even assume responsibility for other people’s sadness or anger, which ultimately stresses them out, Bechtoldt adds.

The study remains limited in sample size, age distribution, and in only studying male participants — further research is needed to see if this relation between emotional intelligence and stress plays out differently in women, different age groups, or people with other educational backgrounds. But it does illustrate some pitfalls of highly emotionally intelligent people — and why learning to cope with emotions is a crucial skill for them.

The full paper “Predicting stress from the ability to eavesdrop on feelings: Emotional intelligence and testosterone jointly predict cortisol reactivity” has been published in the journal Emotion.

Dogs can tell when you’re happy or upset, study shows

Science confirms what every dog owner has known in his heart: our canine friends can tell when we’re happy or upset. The discovery represents the first solid evidence that an animal other than humans can discriminate between emotional expressions on other species.

The experimental setup used for testing the dogs’ ability to distinguish between emotions. CREDIT: ANJULI BARBER, MESSERLI RESEARCH INSTITUTE

“We think the dogs in our study could have solved the task only by applying their knowledge of emotional expressions in humans to the unfamiliar pictures we presented to them,” says Corsin Müller of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.

In this new study, the dogs distinguished between an angry face and a happy face (of the same person) – and they did so in convincing fashion. After training on 15 picture pairs, the dogs were only shown the upper or the lower half of the face. They were tested on four types of trials:

  1. the same half of the faces as in the training but of novel faces,
  2. the other half of the faces used in training
  3. the other half of novel faces
  4. the left half of the faces used in training.

The dogs weren’t able to always figure out the happy face, but they did it often enough to show that they can distinguish the emotions. The study also showed that the dogs can learn and adapt what  they’ve learned to new situations.

“Our study demonstrates that dogs can distinguish angry and happy expressions in humans, they can tell that these two expressions have different meanings, and they can do this not only for people they know well, but even for faces they have never seen before,” says Ludwig Huber, senior author and head of the group at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna’s Messerli Research Institute.

Müller and Huber report that the dogs were slower to learn to associate an angry face with a reward, which suggests that they already have a good idea about what they can expect when humans are happy and angry.

“We expect to gain important insights into the extraordinary bond between humans and one of their favorite pets, and into the emotional lives of animals in general,” Müller says.

Journal Reference: Current Biology, Müller et al.: “Dogs can discriminate emotional expressions of human faces”

Mal's various emotional stances. (c) Walden University

Study proves humans can read a dog’s emotions just by looking at its face

Mal's various emotional stances. (c) Walden University

Mal’s various emotional stances. (c) Walden University

A recent study that asked human participants with minimal experience with dogs to judge the latter’s facial expression showed that we have an inherent ability to empathize with canines. Humans and dogs have been evolving side-by-side for the past 100,000 years and the study suggests that we are capable of judging a dog’s emotions similarly if not precisely as well as those of other people. It’s yet unclear, however, if this relation is special with dogs or if humans can assess just well emotions in other mammals or animals.

Study participants were divided into two groups: dog owners and those who have had minimal interactions with dogs. The participants were presented with photographs of a police dog named Mal, a five-year-old Belgian shepherd dog, under various emotional states like happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared.

“There is no doubt that humans have the ability to recognise emotional states in other humans and accurately read other humans’ facial expressions. We have shown that humans are also able to accurately – if not perfectly – identify at least one dog’s facial expressions.” Dr Tina Bloom, a psychologist who led the research, said.

“Although humans often think of themselves as disconnected or even isolated from nature, our study suggests that there are patterns that connect, and one of these is in the form of emotional communication,” she continued.

The study’s findings show that the easiest to recognize emotion was happiness, with 88% of the volunteers identifying it correctly, followed by anger with a 70% success rate. More subtle emotions like fright or sadness, that are most easily confusing, had a lower success rate of 45% and 37%, respectively. Surprise and disgust were the hardest to spot, with only 20 per cent of the volunteers recognising surprise and just 13 per cent recognising disgust.

What’s interesting to note is that out of the 50 study participants, those who had minimal dog experience were better at judging disgust and anger than seasoned dog lovers. The psychologists believe that dog owners are less convinced of a dog’s aggressive stand and are more likely to confuse the emotion with playfulness. Also, since the inexperienced human participants were better judges, this suggests reading dogs’ faces comes naturally, rather than being a learned skill.

The researchers state that more studies are required in order to assess if human empathy with dogs is based on a special relationship between the two or something shared with all mammals. Dog lovers are definitely rejoicing at the findings, nevertheless.

“I am not at all surprised that science has finally accepted what we knew all along — dog and owner communicate perfectly well without words,” said Beverley Cuddy, the editor of Dogs Today.

A few weeks ago we reported on a study that this time assessed the human-canine relationship from the dogs’ point of view. The study was published in the journal Behavioral Procedures.

Rachel Ross, 4, a preschooler at Burley Elementary School, uses the iPad with other students in the classroom as the class looks at pictures of classrooms in Australia on Wednesday April 27, 2011. (William DeShazer/ Chicago Tribune) B581231575Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS, NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...

Growing up around gadgets hinders your social skills, study finds

Rachel Ross, 4, a preschooler at Burley Elementary School, uses the iPad with other students in the classroom as the class looks at pictures of classrooms in Australia on Wednesday April 27, 2011.  (William DeShazer/ Chicago Tribune) B581231575Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS,  NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...

Modern technology has revolutionized the way we communicate forever. From the telegraph, to the wire telephone, to the internet, to extremely capable smartphones, technology, fueled by scientific advancements, has helped people communicate easily with one another and be aware of what’s going on in world instantly. Too much of anything, however, can be harmful, and when people start to interact more via gadgets than next to a coffee table, you know there’s a serious problem at stake. A new study conducted by a Stanford professor, who surveyed  3,461 American girls aged 8 to 12, showed that those who spent much of their waking hours switching frantically between YouTube, Facebook, television and text messaging are more likely to develop social problems.

I’m pretty sure most of you were aware of this, especially the ZME parents reading this. It’s natural for emotional intelligence not to develop at its healthy pace when face-to-face contact, with all its social skills benefits that come with inherent eye-to-eye contact, body language, even a hand shakes, is replaced by monosyllabic texts on iPhones or Facebook.  Social retardation is a real phenomenon, and it’s engulfing kids at an ever fragile age.

“No one had ever looked at this, which really shocked us,” said Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of communications who worked on the study,. “Kids have to learn about emotion, and the way they do that, really, is by paying attention to other people. They have to really look them in the eye.”

Pre-adolescents girls that spent a healthy amount of time interacting face-to-face with their peers and family were less likely to display social problems,  according to the findings posted in the publication Developmental Psychology. Nass, says, that it’s difficult to stamp the same conclusions to boys as well, since emotional development is more difficult to analyze , as male social development varies widely and over a longer time period.

“If you eschew face-to-face communication, you don’t learn critical things that you have to learn,” Nass said. “You have to learn social skills. You have to learn about emotion.”

What about video-conference apps, like skype or the popular iPhone app FaceTime? Well, the researchers found that conversations over a conference interface are far from compensating, since people tend to multitask while chatting.

Here’s to the future’s generation of basement kids.

Side-note: by no means would I recommend parents to confine their children’s access to technology, that would be a huge mistake. Technology has become an essential part of today’s life, and children need to have access to it. The key lies in balance. 

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