While high levels of emotional intelligence can help individuals navigate the ups and downs of daily life, the perception of high emotional intelligence (EI) can cause them to overestimate their ability to detect deception.
EI refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.
The finding that people who rate themselves as having high EI overestimate their ability to detect deception is the topic of a paper published in Legal and Criminological Psychology.
Professor Stephen Porter, director of the Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law at the University of British Columbia, Canada, along with colleagues Dr. Leanne ten Brinke and Alysha Baker, led the research study.
A standard questionnaire was used to measure 116 participants’ EI. Subjects were then asked to view 20 videos from around the world of people pleading for the safe return of a missing family member. In half the videos the person making the plea was responsible for the missing person’s disappearance or murder.
The participants were asked to judge whether the pleas were honest or deceptive, say how much confidence they had in their judgements, report the cues they had used to make those judgements and rate their emotional response to each plea.
Professor Porter found that higher EI was associated with overconfidence in assessing the sincerity of the pleas and sympathetic feelings toward people in the videos who turned out to be responsible for the disappearance.
Although EI in general was not associated with being better or worse at discriminating between truths and lies, people with a higher ability to perceive and express emotion — a component of EI — were not so good at spotting when people were telling lies.
Professor Porter says: “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.
“This finding is important because EI is a well-accepted concept and is used in a variety of domains, including the workplace.”