Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It pays to have an eye for emotions


Contact: Gerhard Blickle
University of Bonn
It pays to have an eye for emotions
Researchers from the University of Bonn found that people who are good at recognizing the emotions of others earn more money in their jobs


"Although managing employees and dealing with people often involves reading their emotions and determining their moods, not everyone is good at it," Blickle says. "It's the same as foreign languages or athletics: some people are good at it, while others aren't. Most people can do a sit-up. But not everyone is an Olympic champion." In order to compare and measure how well someone can recognize the emotions of other people, the researchers used a validated collection of images and recordings of actors and children - that is, of people who have learned to clearly express their feelings or who do not want to hide their feelings in an "adult" manner. These emotion expressions (24 pictures of faces and 24 voice recordings) were then shown to 142 working adults who were recruited to participate in this research study. The participants were asked to recognize the emotion expression - whether it was angry or sad, happy or scared, for example. "On average, the participants succeeded in 77 percent of the cases," Blickle reports. "People who succeeded in 87 percent of the cases were considered to be good, and people who succeeded in more than 90 percent of the cases were considered really good. Those below 60 percent, in contrast, were seen as not so good in recognizing emotions."

Once the emotion recognition task was completed, the researchers asked the participants' colleagues and supervisors to assess the political skills of the participants (for example, whether participants socially well attuned, influential, apparently sincere, and good as networkers). According to Blickle, the result indicated that people with a good ability to recognize emotions "are considered more socially and politically skilled than others by their colleagues. Their supervisors also attribute better social and political skills to these people. And, most notably, their income is significantly higher."

The "special strength" of the study is "that we were able to exclude alternative explanations," Blickle adds. Numerous factors affect the income of an employee: biological sex, age, training, weekly working hours, and hierarchical position in the company. "We controlled for all these variants," Blickle reports. "The effect of the ability to recognize emotions on income still remained." And, the researchers replicated their own findings in an independent second study with 156 participants, thus underpinning the robustness of their results.


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