The Wisdom in Feeling: Psychological Processes in Emotional Intelligence

The Wisdom in Feeling: Psychological Processes in Emotional Intelligence

by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Emotional intelligence has emerged as an area of intense interest in both scientific and lay circles. Yet while much attention has been given to the measurement of an "EQ," little has been written about the psychological underpinnings of emotional intelligence. This book fills an important gap in the literature, linking the ideas embodied in the emotional

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Emotional intelligence has emerged as an area of intense interest in both scientific and lay circles. Yet while much attention has been given to the measurement of an "EQ," little has been written about the psychological underpinnings of emotional intelligence. This book fills an important gap in the literature, linking the ideas embodied in the emotional intelligence concept to ongoing research and theoretical work in the field of affect science. Chapters by foremost investigators illuminate the basic processes by which people perceive and appraise emotion, use emotion to facilitate thought, understand and communicate emotion concepts, and manage their own and others' emotions. Incorporating many levels of analysis, from neuroscience to culture, the volume develops a broader scientific basis for the idea of emotional intelligence. It also raises stimulating new questions about the role of emotion in adaptive personal and social functioning.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Barrett and Salovey have chosen an outstanding group of emotion researchers to contribute to this volume. The work reported here goes a long way toward allaying the editors' stated concern that excitement about the heuristic value of the concept of emotional intelligence might overshadow careful study of the processes attributed to it. Chapters, many of which grabbed my attention immediately, include accounts of exciting basic research and suggest new directions for future work. This book is not just about emotional intelligence, but about emotion science itself."--Carroll E. Izard, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Delaware

"Here, finally, is a book that puts the notion of emotional intelligence on the map of psychological science. While John Mayer and Peter Salovey, the pioneers in this area, worked assiduously to produce theory and data on the issue over the years, their work often seemed a bit overshadowed by the piles of popular bestsellers vulgarizing their ideas. In this book, Lisa Feldman Barrett and Salovey bring together a large group of expert researchers from different areas in psychology, including many eminent scholars in the psychology of emotion, to take an in-depth look at what psychological science can contribute to understanding the processes involved in perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions. This volume will be an invaluable source for anyone interested in this important and timely research area."--Klaus R. Scherer, University of Geneva

Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

"This is a book filled with gems. It is a must read for those who wish to have the notion of emotional intelligence unpacked in a thoughtful and rigorous manner."
Psychologists from the US and Europe link ongoing basic research on affect and emotion to ideas embodied in the concept of emotional intelligence, in order to provide evidence for the value of the concept as a framework for organizing and advancing theory and research on emotion. They cover perceiving emotion, using emotion in thought and action, understanding emotion, managing emotion, and extensions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

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Product Details

Guilford Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
Emotions And Social Behavior Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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Wisdom in Feeling

Psychological Processes in Emotional Intelligence

The Guilford Press

Copyright © 2002 The Guilford Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57230-785-4



The concept of emotional intelligence has emerged as an area of intense interest, both in scientific (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000; Salovey & Mayer, 1990) and lay (e.g., Goleman, 1995, 1998) circles. Because emotionally intelligent individuals are socially effective, definitions of the concept in trade books and the popular press have included personality attributes more generally associated with adaptive personal and social functioning that may or may not be related to skills and abilities in the emotional arena (Mayer et al., 2000). Scientific treatments have defined emotional intelligence in terms of mental abilities rather than broad social competencies. For instance, Mayer and Salovey (1997) defined emotional intelligence as the ability to perceive, appraise, and express emotions accurately; the ability to access and generate feelings to facilitate cognitive activities; the ability to understand emotion-relevant concepts and use emotion-relevant language; and the ability to manage one's own emotions and the emotions of others to promote growth, well-being, and functional social relations.

The concept of emotional intelligence has been useful as an organizing framework in diverse contexts. It hasbeen helpful to educators designing curricula for the purposes of improving children's social and emotional functioning (Mayer & Cobb, 2000; Salovey & Sluyter, 1997). It has been used by the human resources and organizational development fields to characterize skills important in the workplace other than specific job-related competencies (Caruso, Mayer, & Salovey, 2002; Cherniss & Goleman, 2001). Yet we wonder whether the excitement about the heuristic value of emotional intelligence has overshadowed a careful study of what it is, and in particular, the underlying psychological components that when brought together emerge as emotional intelligence. We expect that with a detailed explication of the multiple processes that characterize emotional intelligence, it will emerge as an organizing framework for investigators who study phenomena in which emotions play some role. The purpose of this volume is to examine these component processes using the model outlined by Mayer and Salovey (1997) as a starting point: (1) perceiving and appraising emotion, (2) using emotion to facilitate thought, (3) understanding and communicating emotion concepts, and (4) managing emotions in oneself and others. By establishing the underlying processes that characterize each of these domains of emotional intelligence, the construct validity of emotional intelligence as a whole can emerge.

As research on emotion progresses at many levels of analysis, from neuroscience to culture, the concept of emotional intelligence continues to evolve. The chapters in this book reflect some of these developments. One issue is whether it makes sense to talk of "accuracy" when referring to the representation of emotional events. Emotions are contextualized, emergent phenomena, such that there are no right or wrong responses-no accuracy in an absolute sense. However, some responses are better than others. Usually, judgments about the desirability of a response are culturally and temporally situated. Thus, it is sensible to measure emotional intelligence in terms of an individual's understanding and use of this consensual knowledge.

A second issue concerns the harnessing of emotions to encourage rational thought, stimulate creative problem solving, and motivate behavior. It is not a new idea that emotions play a pivotal role in assisting good decision making (e.g., Damasio, 1994; DeSousa, 1987), but the multiple ways in which this can occur are still being delineated. To begin with, emotional intelligence is more than just relying on feeling in reasoning. It is also harnessing the motivating properties of affect in everyday life. Traditional discussions of passion and reason assume a strong boundary between the two. Although thinking and feeling are certainly experientially distinct, recent neuroscience investigations suggest that they may be less neuroanatomically separable than originally assumed (Lane & Nadel, 2000). As a consequence, the relationship between emotion and cognition may need to be reconsidered. Moreover, less attention has been paid to the role of emotion in instigating behavior when the behaviors in question are not related to immediate survival. Unless one lives in a war-torn part of the world or in a distressed urban center, the probability of confronting stimuli that threaten survival and provoke prototypical emotional events (of the kind described by Darwin, 1872/1998) is relatively low. A useful theory must account for those events, but should also be able to capture the more frequent, but perhaps less dramatic, emotional responses that characterize modern daily living.

As for the structure of emotion knowledge, we do not know whether emotion concepts have the functional properties of concepts in other domains such as animals, automobiles, and food, or whether they have unique properties. If emotion concepts are like other concepts, then are they best described as traditional feature-based categories (Clore & Ortony, 1991), fuzzy sets with prototypes (Russell, 1991), or theory-based groupings (Medin, 1989)? Are they permanent or fluid, changing in response to situational contingencies in the immediate external environment (Barsalou, 1983) or phenomenological experiences in one's internal environment (e.g., Niedenthal, Halberstadt, & Innes-Ker, 1999)? Of course, the most important questions concern the relations between how emotional information is represented and the manner in which such representations influence diverse elements in an emotional response.

Finally, theories about coping, mechanisms of defense, finding meaning in adversity, resilience, and flexible responding all converge on the notion that components in an emotional response often require active management. This idea is reflected in the fourth branch of emotional intelligence concerning the regulation-often strategic-of feelings and emotions in oneself and other people. Typically, theorizing on these issues focuses on the prevention, abbreviation, or transformation of negative emotion, but is this really the dominant motivation for emotion management? It is plausible, even likely, that negative emotional responses allow us to function effectively in certain situations. Even more likely is the notion that cultivating positive emotions can have adaptive value in its own right, over and above the amelioration of negative responses.

The chapters included in this volume link ongoing basic research on affect and emotion to the ideas embodied in the emotional intelligence concept. In doing so, they provide evidence for the value of emotional intelligence as a framework for organizing and advancing theory and research on emotion. These chapters also stretch the boundaries of the emotional intelligence idea in new and important ways.

Part I of this volume deals with the processes involved in perceiving and identifying emotions in oneself and others. Bachorowski and Owren describe the functional acoustics in an emotional signaling system. They argue that there are direct and indirect ways in which perceivers attribute emotion to targets on the basis of their nonlinguistic vocal properties. Especially interesting are the ways in which declarative knowledge about the vocalizer interact with prosodic features of the vocal cues to produce an emotional impression in the listener. Perhaps even more apparent are the emotional cues provided on the canvas of the face. Elfenbein, Marsh, and Ambady describe the crucial role of reading facial expressions in emotional intelligence. Their chapter addresses how the meanings of facial expressions are interpreted against a contextual backdrop. Although facial expressions may provide some signal in an emotional transaction, they are not impervious to the influence of the relationship between sender and receiver, culture, social class, gender, and other features of the social environment. In the final chapter of Part I, Nelson and Bouton argue that the types of judgments described in the first two chapters may have their basis in associative learning. They detail the associative processes that modify or change the affective value of a stimulus. On the basis of the evidence they present, Nelson and Bouton argue that our learning histories are always with us. Although the affective significance of a stimulus may change, that change is often contextual (and therefore conditional in nature). As a result, learning histories are accumulative and to some extent indelible. These properties of acquisition and change in the affective significance of stimuli have profound implications for other aspects of an emotional response. Together, these three chapters begin to characterize how we come to view certain kinds of cues as emotionally meaningful, and certain types of information as emotionally relevant.

Part II describes how affective experiences come to influence thought and action. Gohm and Clore provide an explicit framework for understanding how individuals rely on affective feelings as a source of information in social judgment. They suggest that there is significant variability in this process, however. Those individuals who report attending to their feelings, and experiencing those feelings in a clear, intense way, use them in the judgment process differently than do others. Gilbert, Driver-Linn, and Wilson also describe the informational value of affective experience, specifically the value of anticipated affective states. They describe the processes involved in "impact bias," the tendency to misjudge both the duration and the intensity of predicted affective reactions. They suggest that similar biases may play out in retrospective accounts of emotional reactions as well, leading to the idea that prospective and retrospective judgments have more in common with each other than they do with actually experienced affective states.

Schwarz's analysis suggests that the states of mind accompanying everyday moods are best suited for different kinds of cognitive tasks. The expansive orientation facilitated by pleasant affective feelings encourages top-down information processing that is creative and heuristic driven. In contrast, the detail-oriented focus facilitated by unpleasant affective feelings encourages bottom-up information processing that is stimulus driven, deductive, and engenders the careful scrutiny of incoming information. Schwarz's ideas about how moods tune the cognitive system have implications for a range of outcomes, including stereotyping, attitude change, and analytical reasoning. Niedenthal, Dalle, and Rohmann also discuss how feeling tunes cognitive processing. The emotional aspects of stimuli form a core organizing principle around which they can be grouped into concepts. Discrete emotional experiences function as the "glue" in perceiving these concepts. The implication is clear: People literally perceive the world differently depending on how they are feeling. Discrete emotions influence not only categorization processes, but other cognitive processes as well. DeSteno and Braverman discuss the various ways in which discrete emotional experiences affect attitude change. They argue that individual differences in emotional intelligence influence the mechanisms by which emotions have their impact. In doing so, they synthesize the affect-as-information perspective with the cognitive-tuning approach to provide an emotional spin on the popular elaboration-likelihood model of attitude change.

The final chapter in Part II provides a neuroanatomical basis for the idea that feelings influence strategic information processing and planned behavior. Using examples from psychopathology, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder, Savage details how one area of the prefrontal cortex, called the orbital frontal cortex, allows individuals to harness affective information during the early stages of responding to stimuli, especially those that are novel or ambiguous in some way. In a preliminary sense, Savage lays the anatomical foundation for how emotional information influences thought and behavior.

Part III deals with emotion concepts-individuals' knowledge base about emotion and their ability to represent symbolically elements of the emotional response. This issue has been a focus of systematic research in developmental psychology. Denham and Kochanoff describe much of this research in their review of the developmental milestones in children's understanding of emotion-how this understanding develops from the ability to label emotional expressions, identify emotion-eliciting situations, comprehend probable causes of emotion, appreciate the consequences of emotion, and infer the emotional experiences of others. These authors provide a useful summary of the development of an emotional knowledge base that may be involved in other aspects of emotional intelligence. Lane and Pollermann describe the different levels of sophistication that characterize individuals' understanding of emotional experience. Using a Piagetian framework, they suggest that there are different levels of development, from understanding emotional experience in simplistic ways (e.g., in global or physical terms) to a more complex conceptual system that is precise and multifaceted. The complexity of a person's conceptual framework will determine, in turn, both the degree to which emotional experience can be represented mentally in a complex fashion and the complexity of the experience itself.

When laypersons think about emotional intelligence, they likely focus on regulation. In fact, managing the potential array of elements in an emotional response, and attempting to influence the feelings of others, are central aspects of competence in the emotional domain. Part IV of this volume concerns managing emotion. Gross and John are especially concerned with providing a framework for understanding the range of strategies involved in emotion regulation. Specifically, they contrast those strategies focused on managing the potential antecedents of an emotion response with those that change the response once it has occurred. They are also concerned with the effects of such strategies, in particular the consequences of suppression. Next, Tugade and Fredrickson point out the value of positive emotions. They suggest that positive emotions provide a powerful antidote to negative reactions. In addition, they highlight the intrinsic adaptive value of positive emotions themselves. Their broaden-and-build model suggests that positive emotions provide us with the psychological resources to engage in the more adaptive antecedent-focused strategies described by Gross and John.


Excerpted from Wisdom in Feeling Copyright © 2002 by The Guilford Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, is University Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern University, with research appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and is a faculty member at the MGH Center for Law, Brain and Behavior. Dr. Barrett’s research focuses on the nature of emotion from both psychological and neuroscience perspectives, and incorporates insights from anthropology, philosophy, linguistics, and the history of psychology. She is the recipient of a Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health, among numerous other awards, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association for Psychological Science. She was a founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Emotion Review and cofounder of the Society for Affective Science. Dr. Barrett has published more than 170 papers and book chapters.

Peter Salovey, PhD, is the Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Yale University. He is also Director of the Department of Psychology's Health, Emotion, and Behavior Laboratory and Deputy Director of the Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. Dr. Salovey has published over 175 articles and has been an editorial board member of several journals. A recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), he has served on the NSF Social Psychology Advisory Panel. His recent work on emotion has focused on the ways in which feelings facilitate adaptive cognitive and behavioral functioning.

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