Psychology Research News

A lot has been said about emotional intelligence, namely, the ability people have to connect with themselves and others. According to some, success in life depends more on emotional than on general intelligence, suggesting that sociability and emotional skills are what determine most of individual success.

In a recent study, Dr. Mehu and a team of researchers investigated the role of a central component of emotional intelligence, emotion recognition ability (ERA), in dyadic face-to-face negotiation. More precisely, the efficiency of ERA was compared in predicting economic and relational outcome to that of general intelligence and traditional emotional intelligence measures. In order to test these ideas, the research team placed 65 pairs of same-sex unacquainted individuals in an employee-recruiter negotiation situation in which they had to reach an agreement on a number of topics (salary, holidays, insurance package, etc.). At the end of approximately 20 minutes of interaction, both individuals ended up with a score that reflected how well they were able to put their own interest forward but also to make room for their partner’s requests. The results of the study show that the recruiter’s ERA and capacity for emotional understanding significantly predicted joint gains (the total amount of resources both partners were able to gather during the negotiation). Even though a person’s scores on ERA and emotion understanding did not predict his/her own individual gains, they did predict his/her partner’s individual gains, suggesting that ERA and emotion understanding are associated with a more cooperative negotiation style. This idea was further corroborated by the finding that ERA and emotional understanding were positively associated with self-report measures of own, and partner’s, perceived cooperativeness during the negotiation. The measure of general intelligence (general reasoning skills) failed to significantly predict economic gains and relational outcomes.

Overall, this study suggests that the economic and relational benefits obtained from a dyadic negotiation depends more on people’s ability to perceive and process others’ emotional cues and signals than on the capacity to reason on the task at hand. Even though the latter may be necessary to understand what is at stake in a negotiation, additional emotional skills are necessary to achieve the material and relational goals inherent to negotiation. Further research by the research group investigates the biological and behavioral factors associated with these dyadic interactive processes.

Original paper:

Schlegel, K., Mehu, M., van Peer, J.M., & Scherer, K.R. (2018). Sense or sensibility: The role of cognitive and emotional intelligence in negotiation. Journal of Research in Personality, 74, 6-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2017.12.003