Monday, 18 June 2012

People with high emotional intelligence are more easily duped by fakers

Although research has shown that most of us are hopeless at spotting lies, there's been speculation in the literature that a minority of people might be unusually talented fib-detectors. The evidence for these "wizards", as they've been called, remains controversial. Now a new study has tested the relevance of a key psychological construct that one might imagine wizards would score highly on - emotional intelligence.

If liars betray their true emotions in early, rapid, automatic facial expressions, as some experts have claimed, it would make sense that people who are particularly adept at recognising and processing emotions (one of the hall-marks of emotional intelligence) would therefore have an advantage at spotting deception.

To test this, Alysha Baker and her team at the Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law at the University of British Columbia presented 116 undergrad participants with 20 clips of real-life press conferences featuring anguished people pleading for the return of their missing relative(s). Half the clips featured a person who was in fact later identified as the perpetrator of the crime against their missing relative. The student participants had to say whether the anxious person in each clip was genuine or being deceptive; how confident they were in their judgment; and how they'd been affected by the clip emotionally.

Overall, the the participants performed no better than chance at identifying which clips featured a liar - consistent with past research showing the difficulty of accurate lie detection. However, there was a further paradoxical finding: participants who scored highly on the "emotionality" component of emotional intelligence (pertaining to emotional expression, perception and empathy) were significantly less accurate than average at judging which of the anxious relatives was being genuine. This association was mediated by how upset the students felt about the clips, perhaps indicating that their emotional state was affecting their ability to scrutinise the videos effectively.

Moreover, higher scorers on emotionality tended to sympathise more than low scorers specifically with the people featured in the deceptive videos, suggesting they were misreading deceptive cues (such as emotional turbulence, decreased plea length and tentative word use) as signs of increased distress, rather than as signs of deception.

All the participants, but especially the high emotionality scorers, expressed misplaced confidence in their judgments about the video clips. "The present findings suggest that a reliance on erroneous information about deception, combined with unfounded sympathy for deceptive pleaders leads to a highly confident, but incorrect assessment that crocodile tears are a reflection of genuine distress," the researchers said.

 _________________________________ ResearchBlogging.org


Baker, A., ten Brinke, L., and Porter, S. (2012). Will get fooled again: Emotionally intelligent people are easily duped by high-stakes deceivers. Legal and Criminological Psychology DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8333.2012.02054.x

Previously on the Digest: Skilled liars make great lie detectors.
Also relevant: Psychopaths show less emotional leakage (HT Scott Barry Kaufman).

Post written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

8 comments:

Ummiega said...

Thank you, I enjoy read this post.

Psychologist Jacksonville Florida said...

You are right, I like to read your article

Amie C. said...

I found this extremely interesting! You would think that the people who scored higher on the Emotional Intelligence test would have been able to detect the lies from the students! In my Psyc class we are learning about emotions and emotional expressions! This could have something to do with the Display Rules- Basically stating that there are cultural differences in the management of facial expressions. Maybe the people who scored high on the Emotional Intelligence test were not necessarily aware of different cultural facial expressions!

Neuroskeptic said...

Hmmm.

"Overall, the the participants performed no better than chance at identifying which clips featured a liar - consistent with past research showing the difficulty of accurate lie detection. However, there was a further paradoxical finding: participants who scored highly on the "emotionality" component of emotional intelligence (pertaining to emotional expression, perception and empathy) were significantly less accurate than average."

If overall people performed at chance, but the high EI ones did worse than chance, then does that mean the low EI ones did better than chance?

Cody Spengel said...

I found this article interesting because I find that a person of high emotional intelligence should be able to detect whether or not a person is faking a emotion. Looking in my psychology book, the definition for emotional intelligence is the following: "The capacity to understand and manage your own emotional experiences to perceive, comprehend, and respond appropriately to the emotional responses of others". If one of high emotional intelligence cannot perceive a fake emotion, how can one say that person has high emotional intelligence. Perhaps this goes to how different cultures have different display rules and some people are unaware of these different rules.

Rebecca B said...

This post was interesting but the findings of their research surprised me. From my psychology class, I learned about emotions and part of being emotionally intelligent is being able to perceive and comprehend emotional responses of others. From this, the people who scored high on emotional intelligence should have been able to detect the deceptive people better. So maybe this test is not good at telling which people are emotionally intelligent or maybe it is and the emotionally intelligent people are just too in-tuned with their emotions to detect the deceptive person. I'm just very shocked at how poorly the emotionally intelligent people did; it would not be something that I would have predicted.

Bethany K said...

Interesting set up! I wonder if the subjects with high emotional IQ noticed and were deceived by small cues that the subjects with average emotional IQ didn't discern at all. In that case, emotionally sensitive subjects would actually be at a disadvantage. However, it certainly did surprise me, as I would have expected otherwise. Based on the standard definition of emotional IQ, (sensitivity to others' thoughts, feelings, and attitudes) those subjects with more of it should have discerned more easily.

Scott Barry Kaufman said...

This study confirms what I long suspected: the way emotional intelligence is currently measured is *not* measuring emotional intelligence. Empathy and emotionality are tied more to personality and affective mechanisms. That's lower-level theory of mind. There's no reason to think that people with compassion will necessarily be better at accurately reading other people's emotions. That's not higher-level theory of mind. Some of the very best mind readers are psychopaths.

See: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201202/are-narcissists-better-reading-minds

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