What is Emotional Aperture?


Emotional aperture has been defined as the ability to perceive features of group emotions.

This skill involves the perceptual ability to adjust one’s focus from a single individual’s emotional cues to the broader patterns of shared emotional cues that comprise the emotional composition of the collective.


Some examples of features of group emotions include:

  • The level of variability of emotions among members (i.e. affective diversity);
  • The proportion of positive or negative emotions; and
  • The modal (i.e. most common) emotion present in a group.

The term “emotional aperture” was first defined by the social psychologist, Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, and organisational theorist, Quy Huy. It has since been referenced in related work such as in psychologist, journalist, and author of the popular book Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman’s most recent book “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.” Academic references to emotional aperture and related work can be found on the references site for the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organisations.

Emotional Aperture abilities have been measured using the emotional aperture measure (EAM). The EAM consists of a series of short movie clip showing groups that have various brief reactions to an unspecified event. Following each movie clip, individuals are asked to report the proportion of individuals that had a positive or negative reaction.


The construct, emotional aperture, was developed to address the need to expand existing models of individual emotion perception (e.g. emotional intelligence) to take into account the veracity of group-based emotions and their action tendencies.

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