Emotional Stability

The field of candidates for the most sensitive job in America’s national security had been chosen. There were 20 candidates, but before any of them would be selected, they would have to go through one final test: a fMRI brain scan. The fMRI would give neuroscientists working with the team a sense of the emotional stability of the candidates. Those who were selected would need to display an incredibly high level of emotional stability.

The first scan involved the candidates reactions to a series of scenes designed to evoke their anger. These were extremely personal to each candidate. The fMRI would evaluate how they responded. Those who “passed” the scan would show a low reaction in the portion of the brain where anger was displayed.

Next was a scene where the candidate was exposed to a very stressful situation. Multiple threats were presented at once and the candidate’s eye movement was tracked to see where they concentrated their attention. At the same time, the portion of the brain dealing with stress was evaluated.

The third scene presented a video clip of a previous interview where the candidate was asked to talk about the saddest moment in their life. The scan then evaluated how their brain reacted to the clip. Of special interest was whether there was a residue of depression.

The fourth scene presented a moment in the interview process where the candidate had a bad moment. The scan was used to see how they responded to reliving the moment. An over reactive brain scan was an indication of lingering self-conscious doubts.

The final scene showed a hypothetical evaluation of the candidate by the selection committee pointing out doubts they had about the candidate. The scan was used to assess how the evaluation was received.

The team of neuroscientists then evaluated each of the scans for each of the candidates to judge their emotional stability. Twelve of the 20 candidates were found to be acceptable.

Emotional stability is one of the major personality traits and often used to evaluate performance of individuals in pressure situations. High levels of emotional stability are necessary for many jobs. The main components of emotional stability are how we respond to situations which are likely to trigger

  • Anger
  • Stress
  • Sadness
  • Embarrassment
  • Responses to critical feedback

While emotional stability is critical to performance in high pressure situations, it is in reality a key to performance in nearly every job. No one enjoys working with a neurotic personality type.

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“The key to success is emotional stability.” – Warren Buffett

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