New Findings in Intuition and Emotional Intelligence

Sept. 12, 2012

Toddlers apparently have finely tuned emotional judgment on whether someone is overreacting to a situation and whining or whether the person truly deserves sympathy. A study published in the current issue of “Developmental Psychology” journal suggests that we are born with the ability or learn very early on how to read the emotional validity of others’ reactions.

The study watched the reactions of 3-year-olds when they witnessed adults who were distressed in various situations, such as getting slightly bumped by box or getting their artwork cut up. The results show that when a toddler witnessed a justifiably distressing incident, the child’s face showed concern. But when the child judged that the event didn’t warrant distress and the adult was over-reacting, the child’s reaction was much less empathetic.

I just love these studies showing that we humans are probably born with tremendous emotional and intuitive abilities. Love that!  We really are social creatures and come fully equipped with the skills to live with others. I am fascinated that children have very good emotional intelligence at an early age.

But I become distressed when I realize that some of us have these fabulous and powerful skills trained out of us by our parents and society. We are taught not to value or exercise these tools of intuition and emotional and social intelligence. Many of us are taught to react solicitously to others’ pain, whether real or put on, but not to feel or value our own emotional responses. Religions also teach us not to “judge” others, so we learn to blindly accept what others do, even if that behavior steamrolls over us. These “Submissives,” as I call them in “Pack Leader Psychology,” don’t trust or value their emotional responses, sublimate their own emotions, overvalue the needs of others, and become inept at reading the emotional cues of others. Sadly, this makes them naive and gullible in relationships, possibly with abusive consequences when a manipulative “Dominator” is on the scene.

I guess we all need to act like little children! Of course, dogs also have very good emotional barometers.

Female leadership: Is it different?

August 4, 2012

Gregg R. Murray, Ph.D., has an interesting blog on www.psychologytoday called “Caveman Politics: How evolution impacts politics.” His latest post is: “Where are the female candidates?

He notes that in the 2012 election season we have a paucity of female candidates. None for president, of course, but also no gubernatorial candidates. Around the world only 1% of government national leaders are female. He then cites statistics on other types of executive leadership in the business world, where there are few female CEOs. He even goes back to look at the number of female Egyptian pharoahs and royalty around the world over the centuries. Also few females.

This is interesting (and, as a female, disheartening), but makes me recall this fact: For years primate researchers only studied the obvious “leadership” of the male non-human primates. They only noticed the tree-shaking rages and rampages, the overt power and sexual dominance. Fortunately, some researchers are now noting that females also exert leadership, but it is not as obvious to human observers (who may be mostly male?). We now know that female apes and chimps use their social skills to influence, persuade, calm, cajole and nurture. They may not shake trees and scream, but they lead all the same. In humans we now call this Emotional Intelligence (thank you, Daniel Goleman). Good leaders use all forms of emotional communication, not just aggression, dominance and violence. (Which I discuss in my book “Pack Leader Psychology.”) Perhaps we need to look at not just the socially noticeable forms of leadership (CEO, president, etc.) and note that women really do lead, just in a different way.  Makes me think of: “Behind every successful man is a good woman.” Let’s recognize and honor all the ways humans lead (and should lead), not just the male-approved versions.

Do animals have emotional intelligence?

I can’t help but blog about animals, rather than people today. Are animals conscious? Or, as I prefer to say: Do they have emotional intelligence? Those of us with pets know the answer: Yes! I believe that dogs (and Reilly does for sure) feel emotions like fear and joy, make conscious decisions about their behaviors, plan their behaviors and choose how to interact with others and their environment. Animals are actually far more intuitive and sensitive about how others are feeling than we humans are (or have become!). I’d say animals have MORE emotional intelligence than modern humans.

But scientists have always wanted to put man on a unique plane in regard to those behaviors and intelligence.

Well, a group of leading neuroscientists has made an official declaration recognizing consciousness in animals.

The main part of the declaration reads:

“We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non- human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

mindhacks blog has links to the full pdf and speeches from the conference.

What do you think? Are animals “conscious?”