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Taylor, G.J. Parker, J.D. Bagby, R.M. (1999). Emotional Intelligence and the Emotional Brain: Points of Convergence and Implications for Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 27(3):339-354.

(1999). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 27(3):339-354

Emotional Intelligence and the Emotional Brain: Points of Convergence and Implications for Psychoanalysis

Graeme J. Taylor, M.D. , James D. A. Parker, Ph.D. and R. Michael Bagby, Ph.D.

Recently there have been two exciting developments in the broad field of emotion theory and research. First came the introduction of the psychological concept known as “emotional intelligence,” which was popularized in the lay press and in a best-selling book by Goleman (1995). Second came the discovery of the mechanisms occurring in the brain that underly emotions, which are described by LeDoux (1996) in his fascinating book The Emotional Brain. Whereas the research of LeDoux and others has clarified much of the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology involved in emotional processing, Goleman emphasizes individual differences in the psychological and functional aspects of emotions.

In this article we review some conceptual aspects of emotional intelligence and describe their theoretical overlap with certain psychoanalytic concepts, as well as some recent empirical studies exploring the relationship between emotional intelligence and the alexithymia construct. A case example is presented to illustrate some of the implications of emotional intelligence and related constructs in psychoanalytic practice. Finally, in an attempt to explain individual differences in emotional intelligence, we review some current knowledge of the emotional brain and report findings from neurobiological studies showing that certain facets of the emotional intelligence construct correlate with functional activity in parts of the brain involved in the cognitive processing of emotions. We conclude with the proposal that the development of the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying emotional intelligence is influenced by early attachment relationships.

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