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Emotionally Intelligent People Are Bad at Spotting Liars

People who rate themselves as having high emotional intelligence tend to overestimate their ability to detect deception in others. They were overconfident in assessing the sincerity of others.

Although emotional intelligence, 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 emotional intelligence) were not so good at spotting when people were telling lies.

"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," study researcher Stephen Porter, of the University of British Columbia, Canada, said in a statement. "This finding is important because emotional intelligence is a well-accepted concept and is used in a variety of domains, including the workplace."

The study was published today, May 18, in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology.

The researchers used a standard questionnaire to measure the emotional intelligence of 116 participants. These participants 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 judgments, report the cues they had used to make those judgments and rate their emotional response to each plea.

Professor Porter found that higher emotional intelligence was associated with overconfidence in assessing the sincerity of the pleas and sympathetic feelings of the people in the video.