Research Shows That Pilots Are Significantly Less Emotional Than The Average Person

Pilots are responsible for a lot of lives. They carry the burden of assuring the safe flight of maybe even a million lives in the span of one pilot’s career.

It’s very hard to become a pilot, and it’s a job that only those who are really committed can get. On average, it takes about 4 to 5 years to become an airline pilot, and it’s an extremely stressful job. Did you know that it was listed as one of the top most stressful jobs back in 2017?

PHOTO: Unsplash/Oskar Kadaksoo

“The job of being a pilot has been glamorized by Hollywood… The job may be a lot more stressful than one might think, particularly because pilots are notoriously cool-headed and unemotional – which are vital personality traits when it comes to a role that carries so much responsibility. Pilots are trained meticulously to handle this responsibility. They undergo years of training and have to study extremely hard to be awarded their ATPL license,” a pilot stated.

Reading the pilot’s reasoning behind their supposed cool-headedness may ease the concern that can arise from a recently published study that shows evidence that American pilots have significantly lower emotional intelligence than the average person. Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to check and regulate their own and other people’s emotions, as well as the ability to empathize with others.

PHOTO: Unsplash/Kenny Eliason

I mean, if the driver behind the wheel is considered less emotional, does that mean that they won’t care if they put their passengers at risk? Not really. For starters, the research only had 44 pilot participants, all who were current or former military pilots, and primarily male, that took a Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue) to score their emotional intelligence (EI). So the study can’t really be treated as absolute, but it does provide us a start when it comes to the research on the role of emotional intelligence in aviation.

When compared to the results of the 88 control subjects, those considered as the average person, the pilots scored lower in EI – this includes well-being, emotionality, and sociability, while the self-control scores of both groups didn’t show any significant difference. The researchers suggest that this might be because of the job and not just a pilot’s inherent personality.

“Pilots have long been associated with a masculine culture that emphasizes aggressiveness, competition, and performance orientation. In practice, the pilot selection and training process may produce pilots, primarily male but also female, who fit within this culture,” the researchers said.

PHOTO: Pixabay/Thomas Fengler

The researchers conclude that although their study is exploratory, “these findings highlight promising avenues for future trait EI research within the broader sector of international aviation. Such research will help practitioners identify new opportunities in pilot training and organizational culture, the better to equip pilots for aviation duty, ultimately leading to improved safety, performance, and all-around satisfaction.”

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