Nav: Home

Students do better in school when they can understand, manage emotions

December 12, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Students who are better able to understand and manage their emotions effectively, a skill known as emotional intelligence, do better at school than their less skilled peers, as measured by grades and standardized test scores, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Although we know that high intelligence and a conscientious personality are the most important psychological traits necessary for academic success, our research highlights a third factor, emotional intelligence, that may also help students succeed," said Carolyn MacCann, PhD, of the University of Sydney and lead author of the study. "It's not enough to be smart and hardworking. Students must also be able to understand and manage their emotions to succeed at school."

The research was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

The concept of emotional intelligence as an area of academic research is relatively new, dating to the 1990s, according to MacCann. Although there is evidence that social and emotional learning programs in schools are effective at improving academic performance, she believes this may be the first comprehensive meta-analysis on whether higher emotional intelligence relates to academic success.

MacCann and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 160 studies, representing more than 42,000 students from 27 countries, published between 1998 and 2019. More than 76% were from English-speaking countries. The students ranged in age from elementary school to college. The researchers found that students with higher emotional intelligence tended to get higher grades and better achievement test scores than those with lower emotional intelligence scores. This finding held true even when controlling for intelligence and personality factors.

What was most surprising to the researchers was the association held regardless of age.

As for why emotional intelligence can affect academic performance, MacCann believes a number of factors may come into play.

"Students with higher emotional intelligence may be better able to manage negative emotions, such as anxiety, boredom and disappointment, that can negatively affect academic performance," she said. "Also, these students may be better able to manage the social world around them, forming better relationships with teachers, peers and family, all of which are important to academic success."

Finally, the skills required for emotional intelligence, such as understanding human motivation and emotion, may overlap with the skills required to master certain subjects, such as history and language, giving students an advantage in those subject areas, according MacCann.

As an example, MacCann described the school day of a hypothetical student named Kelly, who is good at math and science but low in emotional intelligence.

"She has difficulty seeing when others are irritated, worried or sad. She does not know how people's emotions may cause future behavior. She does not know what to do to regulate her own feelings," said MacCann.

As a result, Kelly does not recognize when her best friend, Lucia, is having a bad day, making Lucia mad at her for her insensitivity. Lucia then does not help Kelly (as she usually does) later in English literature class, a class she often struggles in because it requires her to analyze and understand the motivations and emotions of characters in books and plays.

"Kelly feels ashamed that she can't do the work in English literature that other students seem to find easy. She is also upset that Lucia is mad at her. She can't seem to shake these feelings, and she is not able to concentrate on her math problems in the next class," said MacCann. "Because of her low emotion management ability, Kelly cannot bounce back from her negative emotions and finds herself struggling even in subjects she is good at."

MacCann cautions against widespread testing of students to identify and target those with low emotional intelligence as it may stigmatize those students. Instead, she recommends interventions that involve the whole school, including additional teacher training and a focus on teacher well-being and emotional skills.

"Programs that integrate emotional skill development into the existing curriculum would be beneficial, as research suggests that training works better when run by teachers rather than external specialists," she said. "Increasing skills for everyone - not just those with low emotional intelligence - would benefit everyone."
-end-
Article: "Emotional Intelligence Predicts Academic Performance: A Meta-Analysis," by Carolyn MacCann, PhD, Yixin Jiang, PhD, Luke Brown, MSc, and Micaela Bucich, BPsych, The University of Sydney; Kit Double, PhD, Oxford University, and Amirali Minbashian, PhD, University of New South Wales Sydney. Psychological Bulletin, published online Dec. 12, 2019.

Full text of the article is available at https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-bul0000219.pdf

Contact: Carolyn MacCann can be contacted via email at Carolyn.maccann@sydney.edu.au or by phone at +61 9351 4236.

American Psychological Association

Related Emotions Articles:

Multitasking in the workplace can lead to negative emotions
From writing papers to answering emails, it's common for office workers to juggle multiple tasks at once.
Do ER caregivers' on-the-job emotions affect patient care?
Doctors and nurses in emergency departments at four academic centers and four community hospitals in the Northeast reported a wide range of emotions triggered by patients, hospital resources and societal factors, according to a qualitative study led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst social psychologist.
The 'place' of emotions
The entire set of our emotions is mapped in a small region of the brain, a 3 centimeters area of the cortex, according to a study conducted at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy.
Faking emotions at work does more harm than good
Faking your emotions at work to appear more positive likely does more harm than good, according to a University of Arizona researcher.
Students do better in school when they can understand, manage emotions
Students who are better able to understand and manage their emotions effectively, a skill known as emotional intelligence, do better at school than their less skilled peers, as measured by grades and standardized test scores, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
How people want to feel determines whether others can influence their emotions
New Stanford research on emotions shows that people's motivations are a driving factor behind how much they allow others to influence their feelings, such as anger.
Moral emotions, a diagnotic tool for frontotemporal dementia?
A study conducted by Marc Teichmann and Carole Azuar at the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris (France) and at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital shows a particularly marked impairment of moral emotions in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Emotions from touch
Touching different types of surfaces may incur certain emotions. This was the conclusion made by the psychologists from the Higher School of Economics in a recent empirical study.
Negative emotions can reduce our capacity to trust
It is no secret that a bad mood can negatively affect how we treat others.
Study examines how sensitivity to emotions changes across the lifespan
Why do we become more positive as we grow older?
More Emotions News and Emotions Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.