Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 488–498 | Cite as

Emotional intelligence moderates the relationship between regional gray matter volume in the bilateral temporal pole and critical thinking disposition

  • Xiaonan Yao
  • Shuge Yuan
  • Wenjing Yang
  • Qunlin Chen
  • Dongtao Wei
  • Yuling Hou
  • Lijie Zhang
  • Jiang Qiu
  • Dong Yang
Original Research


Critical thinking enables people to form sound beliefs and provides a basis for emotional life. Research has indicated that individuals with better critical thinking disposition can better recognize and regulate their emotions, though the neuroanatomical mechanisms involved in this process remain to be elucidated. Further, the influence of emotional intelligence on the relationship between brain structure and critical thinking disposition has not been examined. The present study utilized voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to investigate the neural structures underlying critical thinking disposition in a large sample of college students (N = 296). Regional gray matter volume (rGMV) in the bilateral temporal pole, which reflects an individual’s ability to process social and emotional information, was negatively correlated with critical thinking disposition. In addition, rGMV in bilateral para hippocampal regions —regions involved in contextual association/emotional regulation—exhibited negative correlation with critical thinking disposition. Further analysis revealed that emotional intelligence moderated the relationship between rGMV of the temporal pole and critical thinking disposition. Specifically, critical thinking disposition was associated with decreased GMV of the temporal pole for individuals who have relatively higher emotional intelligence rather than lower emotional intelligence. The results of the present study indicate that people who have higher emotional intelligence exhibit more effective and automatic processing of emotional information and tend to be strong critical thinkers.


Emotional intelligence Gray matter volume Critical thinking Temporal pole Voxel-based morphometry 



This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31271087; 31470981; 31571137; 31500885), National Outstanding young people plan, the Program for the Top Young Talents by Chongqing, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (SWU1509383,SWU1509451), Natural Science Foundation of Chongqing (cstc2015jcyjA10106), Fok Ying Tung Education Foundation (151023), General Financial Grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2015 M572423, 2015 M580767), Special Funds from the Chongqing Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Xm2015037), Key research for Humanities and social sciences of Ministry of Education(14JJD880009).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaonan Yao
    • 1
  • Shuge Yuan
    • 1
  • Wenjing Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qunlin Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dongtao Wei
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yuling Hou
    • 1
  • Lijie Zhang
    • 1
  • Jiang Qiu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dong Yang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (SWU), Ministry of Education, Department of PsychologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina

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