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UNDER EMBARGO: the world’s most unexciting research finding

Kevin Lewis writes:

Since it’s so surprising:

From: Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2016 12:01 PM
Subject: Embargoed: Want to be popular? Work on your emotional intelligence

UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL SEPTEMBER 27, 2016 at 7:30 AM EDT

Media Contact:
Annie Drinkard, Public and Media Relations Manager
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
press@spsp.org
(202) 524-6543

Want to be popular? Work on your emotional intelligence

Ha! It reminds me of this one:
“Participants reported being hungrier when they walked into the café (mean = 7.38, SD = 2.20) than when they walked out [mean = 1.53, SD = 2.70, F(1, 75) = 107.68, P < 0.001]." Good thing they had an EMBARGO on "Want to be popular? Work on your emotional intelligence." Wouldn't want that secret leaking out early!

24 Comments

  1. Emotional Intelligence is not popular in the cranky business.

  2. Joe says:

    It kind of annoys me that you want to have it both ways. You spend a lot of time criticizing papers that contradict your common sense — on the view that they’re implausible and have statistical problems. Then, when presented with a paper that corresponds to your common sense, you turn around and criticize that as well for being obvious or unnecessary. Do you like anything?

    • Bill Jefferys says:

      I read it as poking fun at the fact that they had embargoed such an obvious result…what was the point of that?

    • Robert says:

      A paper confirming that the sky is blue is useless. A paper testing whether the Earth is flat is also useless. Good research has to go beyond what we currently know in a way that could plausibly yield new insights. Repeating analyses that have been done to death is bad, as is blindly picking hypotheses out of a hat, since both are very unlikely to generate new information.

      If a paper *merely* contradicted common sense, but had a coherent motivation and also supported its conclusions well, this wouldn’t be a problem. Those are not really criticized here. And if this confirmed common sense but to some nontrivial degree (e.g. doing a good job quantifying to what degree various efforts toward ’emotional intelligence’ actually work, or noting an apparent objection/tension in prior literature and arguing against it), that would be interesting as well. Perhaps the actual paper really does that, and this is just a bad title. But the general problem with these ‘common sense’ papers is really that if you asked the authors “what were you hoping to learn from this that you didn’t know before?” it feels like you’d get blank stares. There’s no apparent attempt to actually *learn* anything in the work.

    • Anonymous says:

      “It kind of annoys me that you want to have it both ways”

      If you think that’s unfair, you might want to check out SPSP’s latest press release: Entitled People Don’t Follow Instructions Because They See Them as “Unfair”.

      http://spsp.org/news-center/press-releases/entitled-people-instructions-unfair

      “A final set of experiments, exploring fairness, finally got to the reason: “Entitled people do not follow instructions because they would rather take a loss themselves than agree to something unfair,” wrote the authors. A challenge for managers, professors, and anyone else who needs to get people with a sense of entitlement to follow instructions is to think about how to frame the instructions to make them seem fairer or more legitimate,” said Zitek. Zitek and Jordan write that organizations and societies run more smoothly when people are willing to follow instructions.”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_2lGkEU4Xs

      “Little boxes”

      Little boxes on the hillside,
      Little boxes made of ticky tacky
      Little boxes on the hillside,
      Little boxes all the same,

      There’s a green one and a pink one
      And a blue one and a yellow one
      And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
      And they all look just the same.

      And the people in the houses
      All went to the university
      Where they were put in boxes
      And they came out all the same

      And there’s doctors and lawyers
      And business executives
      And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
      And they all look just the same.

      And they all play on the golf course
      And drink their martinis dry
      And they all have pretty children
      And the children go to school,

      And the children go to summer camp
      And then to the university
      Where they are put in boxes
      And they come out all the same.

      And the boys go into business
      And marry and raise a family
      In boxes made of ticky tacky
      And they all look just the same,

      There’s a green one and a pink one
      And a blue one and a yellow one
      And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
      And they all look just the same.

      • Andrew says:

        Anon:

        Here’s my favorite part of that press release: “entitled people – technically, individuals with a higher sense of entitlement . . .”

        Good that they could clarify with the technical term there.

        • Anonymous says:

          My favorite 2 parts of the press release are the following:

          “Entitled people do not follow instructions because they would rather take a loss themselves than agree to something unfair,”

          I would call that being heroic/conscientious/brave/righteous/etc., but it seems that these type of words are nowhere to be found in the press-release (and/or paper).

          &

          “A challenge for managers, professors, and anyone else who needs to get people with a sense of entitlement to follow instructions is to think about how to frame the instructions to make them seem fairer or more legitimate”

          “Seem”…Does that mean it doesn’t even matter if something is or is not fair and/or legitimate?

  3. Neil says:

    I saw a study with data collected before and after an intervention. They tested before vs after for all variables and came to the shocking conclusion that people were older after the intervention than before!

  4. Neil? You aren’t my ex husband are you? LOL That sounds like what he’d say.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I never understood why or why not a certain research finding is or is not interesting/useful due to whether it is or isn’t in line with common sense.

    Leaving that whole issue aside, i tried to see what this emotional intelligence (EI) actually consisted of, and i couldn’t find out. If i am not mistaken, the paper in the press release mentions:

    “EI was measured with the Test of Emotional Intelligence (TIE; Śmieja, Orzechowski, & Beauvale, 2007; Śmieja, Orzechowski, & Stolarski, 2014), a 24-item ability test (…). Participants were provided with descriptions of social situations and asked to indicate on a 1 to 5 Likert scale the emotions involved in a given situation, or to suggest the most appropriate action. Scoring is based on the judgments of experts (professional psychotherapists, coaches, and HR specialists)”

    I then tried to find out the items of the TIE, the 2007 paper seems to be in Polish, and the 2014 paper seems to all be about the validity of the TIE, but i can’t find the actual items anywhere in the paper (which would be odd).

    Am i missing something here?

    • jrkrideau says:

      Well, conceivably the test is a confidential one if it is intended for use in some kind of “real world” clinical setting and one does not want the prospective test-takers to be coached on how to respond. Seems unlikely but ….

      It could be a copyright issue or it may such a common test instrument in that field that it would be redundant to include it.

      Just guesses

      Back in the “old days” one would not normally include the test in the paper because of the space limitations of paper journals. There would be a note in the paper saying something to the effect, write the author for a copy.

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      The Wikipedia page on Emotional Intelligence defines it as “the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s),” but then a few paragraphs later has a section titled Definitions (yes, plural). In other words, it’s not a very well-defined concept.
      Indeed, the part of the above definition saying “recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately” seems to presuppose that there are objective or universal definitions of different emotions, which sounds pretty dubious to me — for example, one’s native language is likely to influence how one labels emotions, but words in one language usually do not map one-to-one to word in another language.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait for the next paper, and obligatory press release, which could be called:

    “Want to be popular? Work on your physical intelligence”

    https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/athletics-physical-education-and-recreation/pe-910-physical-intelligence-january-iap-2002/syllabus/

    http://austinhealingacupuncture.com/what-is-physical-intelligence/

  7. Terry says:

    Yes, the press release makes the results sound insipid.

    I think this is because the title frames it as a one-variable study, i.e., “Does better emotional intelligence help you make more friends?” Duh.

    But, the paper is a horse race between emotional intelligence and narcissism, so the question is, “Do narcissists or emotionally intelligent people make more friends?” This is less stupid, but it is still unsurprising that narcissists are not very good at making lasting friendships.

    New research shows that in social settings, narcissists start out strong, but it’s those with high emotional intelligence that win the popularity race. Psychology researchers from Poland, the U.K., Germany and the U.S. collaborated on the study appearing in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), an official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

    The team found that narcissists made great first impressions and were well liked by their peers, but three months later, their popularity leveled off. Those who rated as high in emotional intelligence started with fewer friends, but by the end of the study ended up with more friends than the narcissists.

    “The charm of narcissists that wins them early popularity in peer groups is not a permanent phenomenon. It doesn’t have a lasting effect,” says lead author Anna Czarna (Jagiellonian University, Poland). “People get to know them and their vices with time and their ‘star’ status is over.”

    The opposite seems true for emotionally intelligent people. They tend to find more and more friends with time as people get to appreciate them.

    http://www.spsp.org/news-center/press-releases/popular-emotional-intelligence

    The press release sounds like the well known two-step plan for being popular: (1) be attractive, (2) don’t be unattractive.

    • Thank you Terry. I’m not sure that emotionally intelligent are popular if they go up against the status quo b/c there comes a point when you have to be plain speaking to get through. In this sense, emotional intelligence has to address the mother of them all, cognitive dissonance, the best acting disposition.

  8. Emotional intelligence could lead to a decreased desire for popularity.

    There are plenty of people who have strong friendships, collegial relationships, and family bonds (or some combination of these) but aren’t popular per se. I’m not sure how emotional intelligence was defined in this study, but as I see it, it includes the understanding that not everyone has to like you.

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