Do Emotions Affect Intelligence
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Recent studies suggest that emotions do not necessarily have an opposite effect on logical thinking, but instead influence our perception and understanding of information.
Emotional states can even enhance intelligence by enhancing attention and motivation. This theory suggests that emotional experiences can increase cognition by improving performance in other areas such as school or work.
There are several theories about how this happens. Some say that emotional arousal makes you more focused, whereas others believe that experiencing emotion helps you understand related concepts.
However, no matter which theory is correct, one thing is certain – being passionate about something increases cognitive engagement.
Smart people often show strong emotions, and having strong feelings is usually a good thing.
So, next time you’re feeling angry, sad, happy, or excited, try to focus on your reasons for these feelings and see what you learn.
No, they don’t
Many people believe that strong emotions like anger or fear make you act without thinking, which is why there are so many stories of overconfident bosses who lose their jobs.
But what if I told you that being emotionally intelligent has nothing to do with how well you control your own feelings?
It seems like it does. We feel angry about something for a reason, and once we have calmed down, we understand why it made us that way.
With that in mind, some theories suggest that emotional intelligence comes from knowing what to look out for when you're around others and understanding why other people behave the way they do.
Both are true
There is some truth in both of these claims, but you have to know what kind of emotions they are before you can determine which one is more important to intelligence.
A lot of people believe that strong emotional reactions are bad for your intelligence because it makes it hard to control your impulses. This theory was popularized back in the 1950s when psychologists believed that strong emotions could hinder your ability to think clearly due to something called “cognitive inhibition.”
Cognitive inhibition refers to the brain process where we inhibit our natural tendency to immediately assume things mean negative thing about someone or something, and instead we take time to apply logical reasoning to see if there is any validity to those assumptions.
This process usually takes around two to three seconds longer than thinking negatively without delay, and mental health professionals consider this to be a good thing.
By taking extra time to evaluate situations logically, you will most likely find that your mind has already made up its conclusion, so you don't need to worry about being influenced by irrational thoughts.
However, other studies suggest that strong emotions actually help you focus and pay closer attention to details, which is why some experts say that strong feelings are an asset to your overall cognitive functioning.
In fact, several theories propose that strong emotion is even necessary for adequate intellectual functioning.
Emotions affect our ability to think
We feel emotions, therefore we understand emotions. Thinking is influenced by how you are feeling at any given moment, so it makes sense that emotional states influence what you perceive and how you process information.
There have been many studies showing that when people are experiencing strong positive emotions, they tend to make judgments that focus more on the negative aspects of a situation and avoid looking at the potential positives.
They also tend to down-regulate their cognitive abilities — thinking about ways to solve a problem will slow down. And they reduce emphasis on analytical reasoning in favor of intuitive or logical processing.
Emotional experiences can influence perception, attention, interpretation, decision making, action taking and regulation of behavior. These effects occur mostly directly, with some being indirect.
Direct effects include such things as mood influencing perceptual processes (e.g.
Emotions affect our ability to perform
Many studies show that emotional states can have dramatic effects on how well you do your job.
This effect is called “emotional interference” or “costly emotion”. To illustrate, say you are having a difficult conversation with someone important to you.
You get distracted by angry faces around you and begin to feel more angry yourself. It is harder to focus on what you were talking about before because you are thinking about other things.
Your performance will be hindered due to all of these different factors.
Emotions can also influence whether you decide to make an effort and put in some time into something that requires careful preparation.
For example, if you had a bad day at work then it may not seem like there is enough motivation to give a speech to a group of people.
Emotions affect our decision-making process
We all have them, strong emotions that can influence us and motivate us to make different decisions.
We feel happiness for a reason; something in your life has made you happy before so you decide to do more of it or keep doing it.
Emotions also help motivate us, like when we are hungry, so we eat food because we want to taste what we want to see is that we’re eating too much.
On the other hand, emotions can sometimes hinder us from taking action due to fear.
You may be afraid to take a risk and invest in something new because you don’t want to lose money, or you might not believe in this idea enough to put energy into it, thus limiting its success.
Emotions affect how we perceive things
We typically think of emotions as something that only impacts how you interact with people, but research suggests that they also have an effect on how you process information.
A few studies suggest that emotional states can influence what you focus on when trying to understand a topic or material.
By this, we mean that being emotionally engaged may make it easier for you to pay more attention to certain aspects of a situation than others. For example, if there is a lot of talk about politics in the room, then probably someone else will bring up the most recent political news story.
Alternatively, if someone else talks about their personal life, then maybe you try to relate those experiences to your own.
This isn’t always a bad thing, though. Sometimes, these distractions are helpful in breaking down concepts that might be difficult to comprehend.
However, there are some theories which say that having too many emotions can actually impair our ability to form logical conclusions.
With all this diversity in findings, no one really knows for sure whether or not emotions impact intelligence.
Emotions affect our memory
We know that emotions can have an effect on how well we remember, but do they also influence intelligence? Some studies suggest that strong emotional experiences may actually improve your overall cognitive ability.
A few theories explain this link between emotion and cognition. The perception-action theory suggests that when you are feeling emotionally aroused, you pay more attention to detail than normal.
For example, if you were reading a book and saw someone reach for what seemed like an empty cup, you would quickly understand why there was no drink in it. You would probably say something like “Uh oh!” or maybe even grab the bottle yourself before thinking “That was close!”
After all, you wouldn't expect to find liquid inside a closed container unless it contained liquid already. It is similar with cups – you would be extra careful not to pour anything into an empty one because you would notice that sooner.
This link between emotion and better attention has been observed in individuals who suffer from anxiety or depression. People with these disorders often show increased levels of vigilance and caution which helps them function socially and at work. [source]
The other theory is referred to as the arousal system hypothesis. This proposes that different moods trigger different reactions within the body's physiology, producing either relaxed or stressed conditions.
People under stress tend to use up their mental energy focusing on the urgent tasks ahead rather than remembering past events or planning future ones.
Emotions affect our rationality
We typically think of emotion as something that only has effects in us, not others. However, recent studies show that we are all influenced by emotions to some extent when interacting with other people.
This effect seems strongest in young children, where even one emotional event can have lasting impacts. For example, when presented with pictures or stories about beautiful places, children tend to describe and discuss these locations more frequently than adults do.
When engaging with new things, like reading a book for the first time, individuals who experience frequent strong feelings while reading will likely reach their own conclusion faster than those who don’t.
Emotional experiences seem to make it easier to discount information that is contradictory to what you already believe, or to assume that this information fits into your existing mental models.
Overall, then, I would argue that emotions play a limited but important role in shaping how intelligent people perceive the world.