Emotional Intelligence Training Effects on Interoceptive Awareness Within a Military Sample

Lindsey Hildebrand, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
Alisa Huskey, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
David Negelspach, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
William Killgore, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States


Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability and capacity to understand, perceive, and manage one’s own, as well as others’, emotions and includes related skills such as mindfulness and interoceptive awareness. Interoceptive awareness (IA) is defined as one’s ability to process and become aware of bodily sensations, particularly focused around the autonomic nervous system. Interoception has been demonstrated as an important construct within emotional regulation. Military Servicemembers often experience high rates of emotional dysregulation which can lead to an increased risk of mental health disorders and suicidal ideation. We developed an online Emotional Intelligence Training Program (EIT) for the military to train EI and related EI concepts such as interoception. We hypothesized that military personnel who were assigned to the EIT program would increase in interoceptive awareness.

Participants and Methods:

Participants included 165 (NMales= 108, NFemales= 57) reserve officer training corps (ROTC) cadets (Mage=20.27 SD=2.270) who were randomly assigned to either the Emotional Intelligence Training Program (EIT) or the Placebo Training Program (PAT) and completed approximately 10 hours of online training modules within their assigned program. The Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA) was used to measure individual’s level of interoceptive awareness skills. The Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) was used to measure symptoms of alexithymia, particularly external orientation. A mixed effects ANOVA assessed changes in interoceptive awareness pre and post program intervention (EIT and PAT).  A mediation model was also run to explore if assigned training program directly or incrementally predicts reduction in externally oriented thinking.


There was a statistically significant interaction effect of program intervention on IA skills including noticing (p=.004), emotional awareness (p=.006), self-regulation (p<.001), and body listening (p=.001).  The EIT program significantly increased noticing bodily sensations (M=3.380, SD=9.280) compared to pre-training (M=2.951, SD=1.109; p=.002). Emotional awareness skills also significantly increased (M=3.610, SD=.937) compared to pre-training (M=3.170, SD=1.069; p<.001). They also reported significant increases in self-regulation post-training (M=3.490, SD=.825) compared to pre-training (M=2.873, SD=1.134) (p<.001). Cadets also significantly increased in body listening skills after training (M=2.740, SD=1.178) compared to before training (M=2.114, SD=1.240; p<.001). There were no significant effects of the PAT program on IA skills (p>.05). Self-regulation fully mediated the relationship between training program and externally oriented thinking. No direct effects of condition were found regarding externally oriented thinking. Body listening also fully mediated the relationship between assigned training program and externally oriented thinking.


ROTC cadets who were enrolled in the EIT program experienced a significant increase in IA skills post-training. Further, the EIT program significantly predicted increased frequency of body listening and self-regulation skills that reduced alexithymia symptoms such as externally oriented thinking. With military Servicemembers experiencing higher rates of emotional dysregulation, the EIT program can help develop beneficial IA skills to facilitate regulation. Future research should examine the effect EIT in improving outcomes for Servicemembers with mTBIs. Emotional dysregulation has been linked as a frequent outcome of mTBI. Thus, training EI, IA, and related concepts could help facilitate recovery post-injury for the increasing number of mTBIs incurred each year by servicemembers.

Category: Emotion Regulation

Keyword 1: awareness
Keyword 2: technology
Keyword 3: emotional processes