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February 11, 2009

Emotional Intelligence Training and Evaluation in Physicians—Reply

JAMA. 2009;301(6):600-601. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.83

In Reply: We agree with Mr Pagnini and colleagues that EI has the potential to affect other skill areas, such as the diagnostic and prognostic abilities of physicians. In the study they cited,1 evidence suggests that psychiatrists' facial expressions during diagnostic interviews are more predictive of patient suicide attempts than the psychiatrist's declarative predictions. This begs the question of how often physicians are ignoring their own emotions instead of appreciating them as important sources of data. The ability to appraise one's own emotional reactions falls under the first branch of EI, perceiving emotions. Traditionally, physicians have been trained to put more trust in their cognitive judgment than their emotional reactions to patients. Research by Damasio2 suggests that the inability to infer one's own emotional reactions may actually lead to poor decision-making. Damasio has shown that people with damage to the area of the brain that contributes to the experience of “gut” reactions to situations actually make more adverse decisions. If EI has the potential to affect clinical decision-making, it may also contribute to the development of other competencies, such as patient care.

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