Emotional Intelligence and Peer Perceptions within Interior Design Teams

Presented by: Steven B. Webber

Introduction and Research Questions Emotional intelligence (EI), cognitive ability, and personality measures such as the Five Factor Model have been found to be helpful predictors of professional outcomes, including leadership (O’Boyle et al., 2011) with some researchers even stating that EI can provide additional predictive reliability beyond cognition and personality trait measures (Joseph and Newman, 2010). While cognitive ability is still considered the best predictor of individual professional performance (Schmidt et al., 2008), EI can also contribute to performance, particularly in collaborative group work in college students (Offermann et al., 2004). In the context of interior design education, student collaboration is a requirement for CIDA accreditation, and demonstrates preparation for practice as the interior design profession is a highly collaborative field. This study examined the possible connection between EI, using the Assessing Emotions Scale (AES) (Schutte et al., 1998), and individual performance based on peer perception during a design charrette at an U.S. university. The research addressed the question, “Is there a connection between individual’s EI and outcomes in peer evaluations in context with team-based design projects?” Findings could shed light on internal team dynamics of student design teams, some of the possible conflicts that can arise in design teams for individuals with particular EI traits, and how educators can better prepare students to be thriving future design professionals. Methodology Student participation in the test was voluntary, and was offered to the students prior to taking part in a department-wide, highly complex design charrette limited to four days in duration. The complex scenario required the team members to rely on one another in order to meet the requirements of the project in the short time frame. This combination of circumstances created an environment where tension could run high between team members. Each team was comprised of four to five individuals spanning the second through fourth year studios. Confidential peer evaluation forms were used to gauge the level and quality of contribution from each individual team member. Findings 123 students took part in the charrette and completed the AES yielding a mean score of 131.16 out of 165 points possible (SD=11.44). Students receiving perfect peer evaluations from all of their team members (m=132.85; n=84; s=11.44) were compared to those receiving less than perfect peer evaluations (m=127.54; n=39; s=9.89) in terms of their overall AES score. A t-test showed the difference between these scores to be statistically significant (t(121)=2.44, p=.016). Drilling down further, the “managing one’s own emotions” category (45 of the 165 points possible) within the overall AES shows that the students with perfect peer evaluations (m=37.04; n=84; s=3.9) score significantly higher than the those with less than perfect peer evaluations (m=35.38; n=39; s=3.85) (t(121)=2.21, p=.029). These findings indicate that those who are viewed favorably by team members while engaging in a complex design scenario tend to have higher EI and also tend to be better at managing their own emotions. As students seek to prepare for a profession that demands them to work well in teams, they should seek to evaluate their own EI traits. Interior design educators have a tremendous opportunity to be a catalyst in increasing the awareness of the importance of EI in the interior design context.


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