Investigations into emotional intelligence
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 22:01 authored by Alissa Pauline Beath
It has been well established that individuals with higher trait emotional intelligence (TEI) experience superior psychological health. Research has also shown that TEI predicts less of an acute stress reaction following a discrete stressor, though this is not invariant across stressors. Further, while it is known that adaptive cognitive and behavioural domains of coping styles and emotion regulation (ER) are associated with TEI, it is not known whether these domains can explain the predictive effect of TEI on psychological health, and thus act as potential mechanisms to explain the apparent benefit of the dispositional construct of TEI. Finally, it is not known whether these effects are consistent across different measures of TEI. Across five studies, this thesis aimed to investigate (1) what systematic differences exist among TEI measurement tools; (2) whether coping styles and ER strategies, particularly cognitive reappraisal, can explain the association between TEI and psychological health and reactions to stress; (3) whether types of reappraisal can be identified and classified according to a theoretically coherent framework; and (4) whether different types of reappraisal moderate the effect of TEI on stress responses differentially. Results showed important differences between TEI measurement tools in associations with personality, distress, coping and ER, suggesting disunity within the TEI construct as operationalised by different researchers. Second, coping styles primarily explain why high TEI individuals experience lower general stress and anxiety, but that greater use of reappraisal by high TEI individuals is key to an apparent adaptive increase in stress when facing a high-demand task, while anxiety remains low. A distinction between two types of reappraisal was established, which had distinctive effects on individuals’ acute stress response, and differentially moderated the effect of TEI on acute stress responses. Thus, this thesis showed that, assisted by using reappraisal, high TEI individuals seemingly have the capability to engage more thoroughly with the realistic demands of stressful life events, which, while initially more taxing, is ultimately beneficial.