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Emotional Intelligence: A New Criterion For Hiring?

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The cognitive skills and personality of a future employee are examined during a job interview: does the candidate have the right training? The right career history? Does he present himself well? And is he affable? However, qualifications and a nice character don’t necessarily mean that the interviewee will be a good boss or a competent colleague, especially in professions where social interactions play a pivotal role. The individual’s emotional intelligence has to be factored in, that is, his or her capacity to understand, regulate, recognise and manage emotions in the specific context of the work environment. Researchers at the Universities of Geneva (UNIGE) and Berne (UNIBE), Switzerland, have devised an emotional intelligence test that measures emotional competences at work. Known as the Geneva Emotional Competence Test (GECO), it is now available for research purposes and commercial use — and you can read all about the results in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The importance of emotional intelligence is widely acknowledged today, whether it’s about recognising and understanding emotions, regulating one’s own feelings or managing those of others. But up to now there has never been a test for measuring these skills in the specific context of work and the standards that govern it, that was entirely based on scientific findings and empirically validated.

“In fact, someone may behave in a totally different way with their family or at work. They might be authoritarian in one environment and submissive in another,” points out Marcello Mortillaro, a researcher in UNIGE’s Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (SCAS).

“That’s why we were so keen to develop an emotional intelligence test focusing exclusively on situations specific to the professional environment. The aim was to assess a person’s level in this area and provide both individuals and organizations with a scientifically based description that could help in personal development, in hiring the right candidate for the job, and in giving the right job to the person.”

The Geneva Emotional Competence Test

The Geneva Emotional Competence Test (GECO) consists of four tests for evaluating the different parts of emotional intelligence, namely: understanding emotions, recognising emotions, regulating one’s own emotions and managing other people’s emotions. Katja Schlegel, a researcher at UNIBE’s Institute of Psychology, explains:

“We concentrated on problematic situations that involve negative emotions: fear, sadness, anger and inappropriate happiness or Schadenfreude.”

“The GECO results were controlled and validated by additional tests, and they are very convincing,” continues Mortillaro.

“The more emotional intelligence skills you have and the better those skills are, the better your work outcomes are, above and beyond your cognitive intelligence or personality.”

The researchers also found that a superior ability to regulate one’s own emotions is linked to earning a slightly higher salary. In fact, emotional intelligence goes hand-in-hand with a higher degree of empathy, openness to others, respect for moral rules and, in overall terms, a positive temperament.

“We tested GECO on people aged 20 to 60, and the results show that emotional intelligence increases with age and experience, meaning it’s a faculty that can be improved and developed,” says Mortillaro.

Women on the whole obtain superior results than men, notably when asked to interpret nonverbal emotional expressions.

“Emotional intelligence is also linked to a person’s well-being and satisfaction with his or her lifestyle,” adds Schlegel.

“We also noted that managers who perform well on GECO have better results in standardized leadership tasks and students with higher GECO scores get better grades,” says Schlegel.

This finding explains why GECO is now being marketed by a Bern-based company and is being used for recruitment and career guidance assessments. The test currently exists in French, English and German with an Italian version being developed.

“We now want to analyse the data to see whether there are differences across different language regions. We’re continuing to develop GECO so that it can support the role of emotional intelligence in recruitment and scientifically validate the predictive aspect of a person’s abilities in their professional careers,” says Mortillaro.

1000 people to validate GECO

The various questions included in GECO were drawn up using interviews with over 40 managers working in Swiss-based firms. Participants were asked to explain diverse situations where they were faced with fear, sadness, anger or inappropriate happiness. They then presented the answers specific to these situations, which were validated by emotion experts and other managers as well as representatives of the general public. More than 1000 individuals then completed the four tests that make up GECO.

During the first subtest, which focuses on understanding emotions, participants are presented with 20 emotional scenarios and are asked to choose from 15 possible options which emotion was probably experienced in each scenario. The second test, designed to assess the recognition of emotions, consists of 42 videos of a person expressing a particular emotion. Once more, participants had to select the right emotion from 14 suggestions. The third test was geared towards the ability to regulate emotions: 28 scenarios portrayed a particular situation, with participants having to choose how they would behave. There were four possible answers but subjects were only allowed to choose two, the objective being to reduce the negative emotion rather than maintain it. Finally, the fourth test evaluated the management of other people’s emotions. As Mortillaro notes:

“This was the most important and meaningful test, especially in a professional context.”

In each of 20 scenarios, a person expressed fear, sadness, anger or inappropriate happiness. Participants had to choose from five possible courses of action the one they thought most effective to manage the emotional state of the other person: cooperation, compromise, acceptance, avoidance or assertiveness.

“In this instance, context is everything. You might think that cooperation is always the right solution but that’s by no means the case,” warns the UNIGE researcher.

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Report Reveals Link Between Air Pollution And Increased Risk For Miscarriage

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Air quality has been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes from asthma to pre-term birth. Researchers at University of Utah Health found women living along the Wasatch Front — the most populous region in the state of Utah — had a higher risk (16 percent) of miscarriage following short-term exposure to elevated air pollution. The results are available online on December 5 in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

“Not being from Salt Lake originally, I noticed a pattern in the relation to air quality and pregnancy loss,” said Matthew Fuller, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery at U of U Health and senior author on the paper.

“I knew this was an understudied question so we decided to dig deeper.”

Fuller joined University of Utah research analyst Claire Leiser on a retrospective study consisting of more than 1,300 women (54 percent Caucasian, 38 percent Hispanic, and other/missing 8 percent; average age 28 years). The women in the study sought help at the U of U emergency department following a miscarriage (up to 20-weeks gestation) between 2007 to 2015.

The team examined the risk of miscarriage during a three- or seven-day window following a spike in the concentration of three common air pollutants: small particulate matter (PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide and ozone. The study excluded women who lived outside Utah.

“We are really only seeing the most severe cases during a small window of time,” said Leiser, first author on the paper.

“These results are not the whole picture.”

Leiser notes the results suggest there could be an increased risk for an individual. Their research only captured women who sought help at an emergency department at one hospital in the region. It does not account for women who may have sought outpatient care through their obstetric or primary care providers.

The team found a slight increased risk in miscarriage for women exposed to elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide (16 percent for 10 ppb increase during the seven-day window). Although small particulate matter does track with nitrogen dioxide, these results did not significantly associate with an increased risk of miscarriage.

“While we live in a pretty unique geographic area, the problems we face when it comes to air pollution are not unique,” said Fuller.

“As the planet warms and population booms, air pollution is going to become a bigger problem not only in the developing world but across the United States.”

The Wasatch Front experiences short-periods of poor air quality, primarily during the winter months, when inversions trap pollutants close to the ground (for the 7-day window: PM2.5 min = 0.3 μg/m3; PM2.5 max = 73.0 μg/m3; O3 min = 4 ppb; O3 max= 80 ppb; NO2min = 0.5 ppb; NO2 max = 65 ppb). The researchers tracked air quality by zip code, establishing six designated air basins within the Wasatch Front. They compared air quality in each basin to their patients’ outcomes.

The team conducted a case cross-over study that estimated a woman’s risk of miscarriage multiple times in a month where air pollution exposure varied. This approach removed other risk factors, like maternal age, from the study. The scientists were unable to ascertain the age of the fetus at the time of the miscarriage and were unable pinpoint a critical period when the fetus may be most vulnerable to pollutants.

“The results of this study are upsetting, and we need to work together as a society to find constructive solutions,” Fuller said.

Fuller recommends women speak with their doctor about any health concerns. Women can manage the risk by using a N95 particulate respirator face mask to filter out pollutants or avoid outdoor physical activity on poor air quality days. Women can also use filters to lower indoor pollution and, if possible, time conception to avoid seasonal episodes of poor air quality.

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Alcohol Intake May Be Key to Long-term Weight Loss for People with Diabetes

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Research shows that losing weight can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. While best practice for weight loss often includes decreasing or eliminating calories from alcohol, few studies examine whether people who undergo weight loss treatment report changes in alcohol intake and whether alcohol influences their weight loss.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) suggests that alcohol consumption may attenuate long-term weight loss in adults with Type 2 diabetes.

In the study, close to 5,000 people who were overweight and had diabetes were followed for four years. One group participated in Intensive Lifestyle Intervention (ILI) and the other in a control group consisting of diabetes support and education. Data showed that participants in the ILI group who abstained from alcohol consumption over the four-year period lost more weight than those who drank any amount during the intervention. Results from the study also showed that heavy drinkers in the ILI group were less likely to have clinically significant weight loss over the four years.

“This study indicates that while alcohol consumption is not associated with short‐term weight loss during a lifestyle intervention, it is associated with worse long‐term weight loss in participants with overweight or obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” says lead investigator Ariana M. Chao, PhD, CRNP, Assistant Professor of Nursing in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences.

“Patients with Type 2 diabetes who are trying to lose weight should be encouraged to limit alcohol consumption.”

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Hang In There. As Couples Age, Humor Replaces Bickering

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Honeymoon long over? Hang in there. A new UC Berkeley study shows those prickly disagreements that can mark the early and middle years of marriage mellow with age as conflicts give way to humor and acceptance.

Researchers analyzed videotaped conversations between 87 middle-aged and older husbands and wives who had been married for 15 to 35 years, and tracked their emotional interactions over the course of 13 years. They found that as couples aged, they showed more humor and tenderness towards one another.

Overall, the findings, just published in the journal Emotion, showed an increase in such positive behaviors as humor and affection and a decrease in negative behaviors such as defensiveness and criticism. The results challenge long-held theories that emotions flatten or deteriorate in old age and point instead to an emotionally positive trajectory for long-term married couples.

“Our findings shed light on one of the great paradoxes of late life,” said study senior author Robert Levenson, a UC Berkeley psychology professor.

“Despite experiencing the loss of friends and family, older people in stable marriages are relatively happy and experience low rates of depression and anxiety. Marriage has been good for their mental health.”

Consistent with previous findings from Levenson’s Berkeley Psychophysiology Laboratory, the longitudinal study found that wives were more emotionally expressive than their husbands, and as they grew older they tended toward more domineering behavior and less affection. But generally, across all the study’s age and gender cohorts, negative behaviors decreased with age.

“Given the links between positive emotion and health, these findings underscore the importance of intimate relationships as people age, and the potential health benefits associated with marriage,” said co-lead author Alice Verstaen, who conducted the study as a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.

The results are the latest to emerge from a 25-year UC Berkeley study headed by Levenson of more than 150 long-term marriages. The participants, now mostly in their 70s, 80s and 90s, are heterosexual couples from the San Francisco Bay Area whose relationships Levenson and fellow researchers began tracking in 1989.

In their investigation of marital relationships, researchers viewed 15-minute interactions between spouses in a laboratory setting as they discussed shared experiences and areas of conflict. They tracked the emotional changes every few years.

The spouses’ listening and speaking behaviors were coded and rated according to their facial expressions, body language, verbal content and tone of voice. Emotions were coded into the categories of anger, contempt, disgust, domineering behavior, defensiveness, fear, tension, sadness, whining, interest, affection, humor, enthusiasm and validation.

Researchers found that both middle-aged and older couples, regardless of their satisfaction with their relationship, experienced increases in overall positive emotional behaviors with age, while experiencing a decrease in overall negative emotional behaviors.

“These results provide behavioral evidence that is consistent with research suggesting that, as we age, we become more focused on the positives in our lives,” Verstaen said.

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