Emotional Intelligence and Reading a Face

handsMost of us recognize that controlling our emotions plays a key role in being successful in the workplace. A person who lacks control diverts attention from productivity by creating disruptions or being too self-absorbed. Over the last decade, the growth of emotional intelligence literature refocused our attention to include looking inward as well as outward. In 1990, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer brought emotional intelligence to the mainstream. In their influential article “Emotional Intelligence,” they defined emotional intelligence as, “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (1990).

Their article defined four different factors of emotional intelligence:

  1. Perceiving Emotions: accurately perceiving emotions (body language and facial expressions).
  2. Reasoning with Emotions: using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity.
  3. Understanding Emotions: determining the reason and meaning of the emotion.
  4. Managing Emotions: responding appropriately to your emotions as well as others.

As one progressed from factor one to four, the level of sophistication and aptitude for emotional intelligence grew.

If you are curious about your current level of emotional intelligence, an increasingly popular method of assessment involves determining your ability to read people’s facial expressions. During human development, we learn how to assess emotions in non-verbal manners. Put simply, we can determine mood or intention through non-verbal clues like expression or body language. Paul Ekman focuses on the study of messaging through facial expression. His research confirmed that there are some universally consistent facial expressions:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Surprise
  • Fear
  • Enjoyment
  • Disgust
  • Contempt

His work has not only changed how we understand the universality of facial expression clues, but how we can predict future behaviors. A recent Fast Company article describes his work with predicting terrorism, detecting when someone is lying, and interrogating prisoners. (http://www.fastcompany.com/1800709/human-lie-detector-paul-ekman-decodes-faces-depression-terrorism-and-joy)

If you would like to give it a try, here are two simple quizzes:


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