Emotional intelligence correlates with functional responses to dynamic changes in facial trustworthiness

William D.S. Killgore, Zachary J. Schwab, Olga Tkachenko, Christian A. Webb, Sophie R. DelDonno, Maia Kipman, Scott L. Rauch, Mareen Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to a constellation of traits, competencies, or abilities that allow individuals to understand emotional information and successfully navigate and solve social/emotional problems. While little is known about the neurobiological substrates that underlie EI, some evidence suggests that these capacities may involve a core neurocircuitry involved in emotional decision-making that includes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), insula, and amygdala. In a sample of 39 healthy volunteers (22 men; 17 women), scores on the Bar-On EQ-i (a trait/mixed model of EI) and Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT; an ability model of EI) were correlated with functional magnetic resonance imaging responses during brief presentations of moving facial expressions that changed in the level of perceived trustworthiness. Core emotion neurocircuitry was responsive to dynamic changes in facial features, regardless of whether they reflected increases or decreases in apparent trustworthiness. In response to facial movements indicating decreasing trustworthiness, MSCEIT correlated positively with functional responses of the vmPFC and rostral ACC, whereas the EQ-i was unrelated to regional activation. Systematic differences in EI ability appear to be significantly related to the responsiveness of the vmPFC and rostral ACC to facial movements suggesting potential trustworthiness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-346
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Amygdala
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Insula
  • Somatic Marker Hypothesis
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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