High levels of emotional intelligence (EI) have been associated with increased success in the workplace, greater quality of personal relationships, and enhanced wellbeing. Evidence suggests that EI is mediated extensively by the interplay of key emotion regions including the amygdala, insula, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, among others. The insula, in particular, is important for processing interoceptive and somatic cues that are interpreted as emotional responses. We investigated the association between EI and functional brain responses within the aforementioned neurocircuitry in response to subliminal presentations of social threat. Fifty-four healthy adults completed the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and underwent functional magnetic brain imaging while viewing subliminal presentations of faces displaying anger, using a backward masked facial affect paradigm to minimize conscious awareness of the expressed emotion. In response to masked angry faces, the total MSCEIT scores correlated negatively with a cluster of activation located within the left insula, but not with activation in any other region of interest. Considering the insula's role in the processing of interoceptive emotional cues, the results suggest that greater EI is associated with reduced emotional visceral reactivity and/or more accurate interoceptive prediction when confronted with stimuli indicative of social threat.
- emotional intelligence
- ventromedial prefrontal cortex
ASJC Scopus subject areas