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Emotionally intelligent people more likely to be deceived: study

Nadine Bells
Shine On
May 23, 2012

If you think you're emotionally intelligent, you're likely overestimating your ability to detect deception in others — at least that's what new Canadian research is claiming.

The study, published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology, says that emotional intelligence (EI) — assessed in 116 study participants though a questionnaire — is associated with overconfidence when assessing sincerity in others.

EI refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Some researchers claim EI can be learned and developed, others claim it's an inborn characteristic.

Also see: Study says having a plan can help you accomplish one task, but not multiple

The University of British Columbia researchers asked participants to view 20 excerpts of news footage from around the world in which people were pleading for the safe return of a family member. In half of the videos, the people making the pleas were actually responsible for the missing person's disappearance and/or murder.

The participants were then asked to judge whether or not the pleas were honest and to rate their own emotional responses to the footage. The results? Those with higher EI were more sympathetic toward people who turned out to be guilty.

ScienceDaily reports that it wasn't EI in general that affected their ability to discriminate between truths and lies, just a component of it. Individuals who had a higher ability to perceive and express emotion were the worst at identifying the liars.

"Taken together, these findings suggest that features of emotional intelligence, and the decision-making processes they lead to, may have the paradoxical effect of impairing people's ability to detect deceit," says professor Stephen Porter, director of the Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law at University of British Columbia.

"This finding is important because EI is a well-accepted concept and is used in a variety of domains, including the workplace."

Also see: Are people really more likely to cheat when it rains?

Erin Anderssen of The Globe and Mail shares some tips for identifying a liar:

"Liars speak more slowly, with more 'ums' and 'has,' and often use few hand and arm movements. Deceptive murderers were more likely to express disgust than sadness, if only in brief facial expressions. They used more tentative language, as if suggesting that the victim 'may' not be found, so they don't have to commit to the lie, while genuine family members are more likely to address the victim directly."

Interestingly enough, another study from this year suggests that babies are good at spoting liars. And yet another study from last year shows that people are more likely to lie over the the telephone rather than email or text.

How do you feel about your own ability to detect lying?

Watch the video below about how a website made a business out of hosting anonymously posted nude photos.

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