Predicting Stress From the Ability to Eavesdrop on Feelings: Emotional Intelligence and Testosterone Jointly Predict Cortisol Reactivity

ArticleinEmotion 16(6) · April 2016with 1,052 Reads
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Abstract
While emotional intelligence (EI) is recognized as a resource in social interactions, we hypothesized a positive association with stress in socially evaluative contexts. In particular, we expected emotion recognition, the core component of EI, to inflict stress on individuals in negatively valenced interactions. We expected this association to be stronger for status-driven individuals, that is, for individuals scoring high on basal testosterone. In a laboratory experiment, N = 166 male participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (Kirschbaum, Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993). As expected, EI measured by the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT V2.0; Mayer et al., 2003) predicted higher cortisol reactivity, including slower recovery from stress. The effect was moderated by basal testosterone, such that the association was positive when basal testosterone was high but not when it was low. On the component level of EI, the interaction was replicated for negative emotion recognition. These findings lend support to the hypothesis that EI is associated with higher activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in contexts where social status is at stake, particularly for those individuals who are more status-driven. Thus, the effects of EI are not unequivocally positive: While EI may positively affect the course of social interactions, it also inflicts stress on the emotionally intelligent individuals themselves. (PsycINFO Database Record

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    Testosterone levels were examined in prisoners convicted of violent crimes (n = 13), in men previously convicted of violent crimes but currently not in prison (n = 15), in nonviolent alcoholics (n = 15), and in randomly selected control males (n = 16). Morning, afternoon, and evening testosterone levels were assessed after a minimum alcohol abstinence period of 24 hr. Violent and nonviolent men did not differ in plasma total testosterone level on any sampling occasion. In violent men, however, testosterone levels were significantly correlated with hostility, as measured by the Derogatis Symptom Check List. Most violent men were diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASP) [DSM-III-R; 301.70], and the unweighted ASP symptom count also correlated significantly with testosterone levels in these subjects. We suggest that individuals whose life histories involve numerous antisocial behaviors tend to have high testosterone levels even when interpersonal violence is excluded. This, however, does not eliminate the possibility that males who are characterized by high hostility may also have elevated testosterone levels. Violent predisposition and antisocial conduct beginning in early adolescence predict adult aggressive behaviors, which are augmented by power-related alcohol expectancies and alcohol abuse. Aggr. Behav. 25:113–123, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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    Emotional intelligence (EI) has received very scant attention from researchers in the sport domain to date, yet emotions are key to sport performance. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore the influence of trait EI in athletes when they have to face the stress of competition. Thirty male handball players (MAge = 22.5 years; SD = 1.7) were exposed to a competition-like stressor in the laboratory consisting of 20 min of negative imagery coupled with the sound of a crowd hissing. Their trait EI was measured with the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire, and a mental stress indicator, the low-frequency/high-frequency (LF/HF) ratio, was calculated from their heart rate variability. A repeated measures analysis of variance showed a significant Time of Measurement × Trait EI interaction, F(1, 28) = 6.036, p = .020, , indicating that high trait EI athletes experienced a lower increase of stress compared to their low trait EI counterparts. Through its influence on the LF/HF ratio, trait EI may help athletes cope better with stress.
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    This study investigated the relative importance of six emotional intelligence (EI) dimensions in the prediction of psychological resilience to multiple negative life events. The strength of relations between life events and distress varied markedly across three latent classes of participants, reflecting vulnerable, average and resilient profiles. Discriminant function analysis indicated that class membership varied as a function of four EI dimensions, with higher scores predicting membership to the resilient class. Across the 414 participants, Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Expression, Emotional Self-Control and particularly Emotional Self-Management appeared central to psychological resilience in the aftermath of multiple negative life events.
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    Emotional intelligence (EI) has been reliably linked to better mental health (Martins, Ramalho, & Morin, 2010), though descriptive associations reveal little about how and when such adaptive outcomes arise. Whilst there is some evidence to suggest that ‘trait’ EI may operate as a protective resource within stress–illness processes (e.g., Mikolajczak, Roy, Luminet, Fillée, & de Timary, 2007), the role of ‘ability’ EI in this regard appears unclear (e.g., Matthews et al., 2006). Moreover, few studies have simultaneously examined relations between EI, chronic stressors and mental health in adolescents. The current study explored whether EI moderated the relationship between a range of stressors (family dysfunction; negative life events; and socio-economic adversity) and self-reported mental health (depression and disruptive behaviour symptomatology) in a sample of 405 adolescents (mean age 13.09 years). Moderated regression analyses found that whilst high levels of trait EI attenuated stressor–mental health relations, high levels of ability EI amplified associations, although both effects showed specificity with respect to stressor type and disorder. Implications for the EI construct and related intervention programmes are discussed.Highlights► Emotional intelligence (EI) may operate as a protective resource within stress–illness processes. ► Moderated regression analyses examined relations between environmental stressors, mental health and EI in youth. ► High levels of trait EI attenuated family dysfunction on disruptive behaviour. ► High levels of ability EI amplified the link between socioeconomic adversity and depression. ► EI is not universally advantageous and operates differentially in pathways to adjustment.
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    a b s t r a c t This essay describes recent research that has treated testosterone levels as an individual difference var-iable. We argue that this and similar work broadens our understanding of the person  situation interaction. Personality psychologists have long been interested in the ways that behavior reflects an interaction of person and situation. More recently, the field has begun to integrate insights from neurobiol-ogy and affective neuroscience (cf. Canli, 2006), in attempt to broaden our understanding of these interactions. This brief essay describes recent research along these lines that has treated testos-terone levels as a personality variable. First and foremost, testosterone meets the criteria for a good personality variable (cf. John & Benet-Martinez, 2000). Levels of testosterone are stable over time (Sellers, Mehl, & Josephs, 2007), demonstrate convergent and discriminant validity (Sellers et al., 2007) and have high predictive validity in specific situations— namely, those in which one's status or dominance is uncertain. In multiple studies, we have demonstrated that high testosterone men and women are motivated to maintain high status, and both-ered when they lose it. When placed in a lower status position, high testosterone individuals become aroused, distracted, and determined to regain status. (Josephs, Sellers, Newman, & Mehta, 2006; Newman, Sellers, & Josephs, 2005). Importantly, no testos-terone differences emerged in control conditions in which status was neither won nor lost. In fact, several authors have suggested that testosterone only relates to behavior when status is threa-tened (Sapolsky, 1991; Wingfield, Ball, Dufty, & Hegner, 1987). Personality psychology has an historical reluctance to measur-ing hormone levels and to treating them as a stable individual difference variable. Few attempts have been made to link testoster-one to self-reports of dominance or status—and those that have find little or no relationship (e.g., Archer, Birring, & Wu, 1998). This may be because most questionnaire measures ask about ''typical" behaviors or traits, whereas a growing body of data suggests that testosterone's relationship to behavior appears to be moderator-dependent; that is, the relationship only appears in certain individ-uals and under certain conditions, and thus oftentimes bears no di-rect, first-order relationship to behavior. Indeed, recent work has demonstrated the importance of con-sidering the interaction of other biologic systems when assessing the link between testosterone and behavior. For example, Mehta and Josephs (2008) and Popma et al. (2007) showed that when sta-tus is threatened, high testosterone men became dominant and aggressive, but only if they also possessed low circulating levels of cortisol. Interactions between testosterone and genetic poly-morphisms have proven important as well. Sjoberg et al. (2008) showed a link between high testosterone and anti-social personal-ity and lifetime aggression, but only among men who showed the low activity MAO-A genotype. A growing body of data suggests that testosterone is an impor-tant player in a complex system of biologic and situation variables that is just starting to be understood. In a recent paper (Josephs et al., 2006), we reported that the testosterone by situation interac-tion was a much better predictor of dominance behavior than were self-report measures of dominance. This and more recent findings suggest an important role for testosterone in studies of dominance, aggression, and other outcomes. More generally, this research ar-gues for increased integration of biological variables into personal-ity psychology (cf. Canli, 2006).
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    In a series of studies, we evaluated the susceptibility of immunoassays for saliva biomarkers to interference effects caused by cotton materials used to absorb saliva during sample collection. Salivary assay results for testosterone, DHEA, progesterone, and estradiol are artificially high, and for sIgA artificially low, when samples are collected using cotton absorbent materials. In contrast, results for salivary cortisol, DHEA–S, and cotinine are not affected by the use of cotton collection methods. The order of individual results from samples collected using cotton versus no-cotton methods for certain markers is not conserved, suggesting that for some biomarkers this collection method can be a significant source of unsystematic error. It was shown, using DHEA as an example, that the cotton interference effect is of sufficient magnitude to attenuate the association between serum and saliva levels. Awareness of this issue is critical to ensure measurement validity in future studies and analyses of archived samples collected using cotton materials.
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    The assessment of cortisol in saliva has proven a valid and reliable reflection of the respective unbound hormone in blood. To date, assessment of cortisol in saliva is a widely accepted and frequently employed method in psychoneuroendocrinology. Due to several advantages over blood cortisol analyses (e.g., stress-free sampling, laboratory independence, lower costs) saliva cortisol assessment can be the method of choice in basic research and clinical environments. The determination of cortisol in saliva can facilitate stress studies including newborns and infants and replace blood sampling for diagnostic endocrine tests like the dexamethasone suppression test. The present paper provides an up-to-date overview of recent methodological developments, novel applications as well as a discussion of possible future applications of salivary cortisol determination.
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    Despite a great deal of popular interest and the development of numerous training programs in emotional intelligence (EI), some researchers have argued that there is little evidence that EI is both useful and different from other, well established constructs. We hypothesized that EI would make a unique contribution to understanding the relationship between stress and three important mental health variables, depression, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation. University students (n=302) participated in a cross-sectional study that involved measuring life stress, objective and self-reported emotional intelligence, and mental health. Regression analyses revealed that stress was associated with: (1) greater reported depression, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation among people high in emotional perception (EP) compared to others; and (2) greater suicidal ideation among those low in managing others' emotions (MOE). Both EP and MOE were shown to be statistically different from other relevant measures, suggesting that EI is a distinctive construct as well as being important in understanding the link between stress and mental health.
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    This paper aims at understanding the processes explaining the protective effect of trait emotional intelligence (trait EI) regarding occupational stress. The present study focuses on a widespread occupational stressor: emotional labour (EL). EL refers to the act of managing emotions and emotional expressions in order to be consistent with organizational ‘display rules’, defined as the organizationally required emotions during interpersonal service transactions. As these display rules interact with employees spontaneous feelings, they regularly induce a clash between inner/real and required feelings. Different strategies exist to cope with this dissonance, with either beneficial or deleterious outcomes regarding psychological and physical health. The hypothesis underlying this study was that individuals varying in the level of trait EI would use different EL strategies, with different outcomes in terms of burnout and somatic complaints. Globally, the results showed that, when confronted with emotional labour, high trait EI individuals experience lower levels of burnout and somatic complaints, and this effect was found to be mediated by the choice of emotional labour strategies. Implications of these results for research, theory and practice are discussed.
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    Recently, testosterone (T) has been linked to behaviors that are conceptually related to dominance as a personality characteristic. Although evidence for this association is growing, the psychometric properties of T as an individual difference variable have been largely neglected. For T to be considered a biological marker of dispositional dominance it is critical that it demonstrates high test–retest reliability and good convergent and discriminant validity. Two studies tested the temporal stability of salivary T in humans and the relationship between T and traditional measures of personality. Across both studies, test–retest reliability for T was high and comparable to the short-term stability of questionnaire-based and implicitly assessed personality assessment instruments. In being modestly correlated with self-reported dominance, T showed some evidence of convergent validity. In being statistically independent from conceptually unrelated personality constructs (such as Emotional Stability and Openness to Experience) it showed good evidence of discriminant validity. The findings strengthen the psychometric foundation for using T as a hormonal marker of individual differences.
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    One possible reason for the continued neglect of statistical power analysis in research in the behavioral sciences is the inaccessibility of or difficulty with the standard material. A convenient, although not comprehensive, presentation of required sample sizes is provided. Effect-size indexes and conventional values for these are given for operationally defined small, medium, and large effects. The sample sizes necessary for .80 power to detect effects at these levels are tabled for 8 standard statistical tests: (1) the difference between independent means, (2) the significance of a product-moment correlation, (3) the difference between independent rs, (4) the sign test, (5) the difference between independent proportions, (6) chi-square tests for goodness of fit and contingency tables, (7) 1-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and (8) the significance of a multiple or multiple partial correlation.
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    Research and valid practice in emotional intelligence (EI) have been impeded by lack of theoretical clarity regarding (a) the relative roles of emotion perception, emotion understanding, and emotion regulation facets in explaining job performance; (b) conceptual redundancy of EI with cognitive intelligence and Big Five personality; and (c) application of the EI label to 2 distinct sets of constructs (i.e., ability-based EI and mixed-based EI). In the current article, the authors propose and then test a theoretical model that integrates these factors. They specify a progressive (cascading) pattern among ability-based EI facets, in which emotion perception must causally precede emotion understanding, which in turn precedes conscious emotion regulation and job performance. The sequential elements in this progressive model are believed to selectively reflect Conscientiousness, cognitive ability, and Neuroticism, respectively. "Mixed-based" measures of EI are expected to explain variance in job performance beyond cognitive ability and personality. The cascading model of EI is empirically confirmed via meta-analytic data, although relationships between ability-based EI and job performance are shown to be inconsistent (i.e., EI positively predicts performance for high emotional labor jobs and negatively predicts performance for low emotional labor jobs). Gender and race differences in EI are also meta-analyzed. Implications for linking the EI fad in personnel selection to established psychological theory are discussed.
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    Salivary cortisol is frequently used as a biomarker of psychological stress. However, psychobiological mechanisms, which trigger the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) can only indirectly be assessed by salivary cortisol measures. The different instances that control HPAA reactivity (hippocampus, hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals) and their respective modulators, receptors, or binding proteins, may all affect salivary cortisol measures. Thus, a linear relationship with measures of plasma ACTH and cortisol in blood or urine does not necessarily exist. This is particularly true under response conditions. The present paper addresses several psychological and biological variables, which may account for such dissociations, and aims to help researchers to rate the validity and psychobiological significance of salivary cortisol as an HPAA biomarker of stress in their experiments.
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    Salivary testosterone measurements would appear to be useful in behavioral research, where subjects are often reluctant to provide serum samples. The usefulness of salivary measurements depends upon their reliability, however, which was the focus of the present investigation. In four studies, 270 male and 175 female subjects collected saliva samples at times ranging from 30 min to 8 weeks apart. Subjects collected samples on at least two days, at time of awakening, midmorning, late afternoon, and late evening. Mean testosterone concentration dropped about 50% from morning to evening for both sexes, with largest drops early in the day. Mean reliability was r = .64 across two days and r = .52 across seven-eight weeks. Menstrual cycle effects were negligible. Reliability can be increased by using more than one measurement, and it is probably desirable to combine measurements taken several weeks apart. Salivary assays offer a practical way of measuring testosterone in free-ranging subjects outside the laboratory.
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    This paper describes a protocol for induction of moderate psychological stress in a laboratory setting and evaluates its effects on physiological responses. The 'Trier Social Stress Test' (TSST) mainly consists of an anticipation period (10 min) and a test period (10 min) in which the subjects have to deliver a free speech and perform mental arithmetic in front of an audience. In six independent studies this protocol has been found to induce considerable changes in the concentration of ACTH, cortisol (serum and saliva), GH, prolactin as well as significant increases in heart rate. As for salivary cortisol levels, the TSST reliably led to 2- to 4-fold elevations above baseline with similar peak cortisol concentrations. Studies are summarized in which TSST-induced cortisol increases elucidated some of the multiple variables contributing to the interindividual variation in adrenocortical stress responses. The results suggest that gender, genetics and nicotine consumption can influence the individual's stress responsiveness to psychological stress while personality traits showed no correlation with cortisol responses to TSST stimulation. From these data we conclude that the TSST can serve as a tool for psychobiological research.
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    This article discusses theoretical assumptions underlying physiological stress reactivity research. It examines early conceptualizations of activation and recovery and contrasts these with current practices in designing, analyzing, and reporting stress reactivity studies. Study protocols from four major journals covering the last 2 years of publication were examined for current practices. Of the 105 studies which tested physiological reactivity, 63% collected recovery data but only 23% reported the recovery data. We concluded that stress recovery issues are neglected and a renewed case is made for their conceptual and ecological importance. The case for studying recovery is further supported by a selective review of studies using recovery protocols that revealed positive findings not apparent in reactivity comparisons only. Finally, options for sound design of recovery protocols, statistical processing of resulting data, and interpretation of findings are presented.
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    Over 60 years ago, Selye1 recognized the paradox that the physiologic systems activated by stress can not only protect and restore but also damage the body. What links these seemingly contradictory roles? How does stress influence the pathogenesis of disease, and what accounts for the variation in vulnerability to stress-related diseases among people with similar life experiences? How can stress-induced damage be quantified? These and many other questions still challenge investigators. This article reviews the long-term effect of the physiologic response to stress, which I refer to as allostatic load.2 Allostasis — the ability to achieve stability through change3 — . . .