“Emotional intelligence is an “it” thing in business, or so say the 11,000 books on the subject on Amazon….At Google, people are joining six-month wait lists for a class on it.”

So says an August 19 2014 Business Insider article, The Mistake Everybody Makes With Emotional Intelligence. The article provides an infographic which notes that “the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side” and outlines four factors for exercising our “ability to validly reason with emotions”.

But what if we are losing our emotions?

“The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

Yes, different research studies show that our emotions are at risk but also that there may be some workarounds. The quote above comes from a ScienceDaily, 22 August 2014 article, In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?

The article quotes Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology in the UCLA College and senior author of the study, who says “Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs…..Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

The article describes the study and the conclusions reached. Lead author Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with the UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, notes that “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills… We are social creatures. We need device-free time.”

However, some other recent research may offer a possible workaround.

“Researchers have designed a computer program that can accurately recognize users’ emotional states as much as 87% of the time, depending on the emotion.”

So says ScienceDaily, 21 August 2014 article Does your computer know how you’re feeling?

Now, obviously there may be a bit of a paradox here. How could your computer accurately recognize your emotional states if you have been using it instead of face-to-face communication, thereby destroying your emotions? However, let’s put that question aside for now and see where this exploration takes us.

The article notes that “this research is an important contribution to ‘affective computing’, a growing field dedicated to ‘detecting user emotion in a particular moment’” and that “While much work remains to be done, this research is an important step in making ’emotionally intelligent’ systems that recognize users’ emotional states”

So it seems that our emotional states have a good chance of being recognized by our computer, unless they are already completely depleted. (You can probably identify a few in your workplace for whom that has transpired, most likely in management positions.)

Now, yet other research is already showing that if our emotional intelligence is not quite up to scratch, we can compensate for any lack of empathy by various workarounds.

“Soul singer Betty Everett once proclaimed, “If you want to know if he loves you so, it’s in his kiss.” But a new study by University of Chicago researchers suggests the difference between love and lust might be in the eyes after all.”

So says a  ScienceDaily, 17 July 2014 article Eye movements reveal difference between love and lust, based on a University of Chicago study. The article describes the experiment and quotes the co-author of the study, who suggests “An eye-tracking paradigm may eventually offer a new avenue of diagnosis in clinicians’ daily practice or for routine clinical exams in psychiatry and/or couple therapy.”

Ohio State University comes up with another tip, described in ScienceDaily, 5 August 2014 article Just one simple question can identify narcissistic people. The Summary says “Scientists have developed and validated a new method to identify which people are narcissistic: just ask them. In a series of 11 experiments involving more than 2,200 people of all ages, the researchers found they could reliably identify narcissistic people by asking them one question.”

Check out the link to find out what the question is.

Clearly, these workarounds for our lost emotions will only be useful if we are sizing up a potential partner or dealing with a narcissist. Is there some more general solution which integrates those and other strands of research?

Yes there is, in the opinion of the VINT Report Things 2 – The Age of Empathic Things.  This free downloadable 36 page book, published in 2014, is the second of a 4 part study on Things. Part 2 explores the coming transition toward a more empathic form of computerization.  However, Section 7, The Great Paradox of Empathic Things, sounds a note of caution:  An enormous paradox is concealed in the new possibilities that Empathic Things offer to us. After all, the word “empathy” suggests that computers empathize with our existence and supply those things that serve us best. But if the result of all those devices

is that our digital activities will only increase and divert our thoughts, is that what we

really want?”

Assuming that is what we really want, the outlook is quite rosy. Conclusion 3: Finding a balance between empathic and emotional, notes “Perhaps the main conclusion must be that we have started a great sociological experiment whose outcome is as yet unknown…. At the end of the day, our future is defined by the sum of what is socially advisable, economically feasible and technologically possible.”

So there you have it.  Putting it all together, it looks like we can get away with our digital media bad habits and losing our emotions because we will be able to get an empathic App to replace them.

“O brave new world, That has such people in’t!” William Shakespeare’s The Tempest


Story Sources:

University of California – Los Angeles. “In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?” ScienceDaily, 22 August 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140822094240.htm

Journal Reference:

Yalda T. Uhls, Minas Michikyan, Jordan Morris, Debra Garcia, Gary W. Small, Eleni Zgourou, Patricia M. Greenfield. Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior, 2014; 39: 387 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.036

Taylor & Francis. “Does your computer know how you’re feeling?.” ScienceDaily, 21 August 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140821090524.htm

Journal Reference:

A.F.M. Nazmul Haque Nahin, Jawad Mohammad Alam, Hasan Mahmud, Kamrul Hasan. Identifying emotion by keystroke dynamics and text pattern analysis. Behaviour & Information Technology, 2014; 33 (9): 987 DOI: 10.1080/0144929X.2014.907343

University of Chicago. “Eye movements reveal difference between love and lust.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140717124530.htm

The original article was written by Jann Ingmire.

Journal Reference:

M. Bolmont, J. T. Cacioppo, S. Cacioppo. Love Is in the Gaze: An Eye-Tracking Study of Love and Sexual Desire. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614539706

Ohio State University. “Just one simple question can identify narcissistic people.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140805150645.htm

The original article was written by Jeff Grabmeier.

Journal Reference:

Sara Konrath, Brian P. Meier, Brad J. Bushman. Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS). PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (8): e103469 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103469