Skip to main content

Do Emotionally Intelligent People Suck At Spotting Liars?

Think you're "in touch" with your emotions and can spot a liar from a mile away? You might not be as skilled as you think you are.

It turns out the higher we rate our own EI -- e.g., our touchy-feelie side -- the more likely we are to fall for a lie, according to a new paper published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia surveyed 116 study participants for EI levels and then had them watch 20 videos of different people pleading for the return of their missing loved ones. What they didn't know is that half of the pleading people had actually committed the crime. The participants were asked to rate how honest or deceptive the pleading people seemed, how confident they felt in what the person in the videotape was saying, and so on.

Basically, the more emotionally intelligent the study participant, the more overconfidence he or she displayed in assessing someone else's sincerity level. Aww, but he seemed like such a nice, trustworthy, honest person!

Of course, emotional intelligence has been a "thing" in the workplace for years now, and books about pinpointing and perfecting one's own EI levels populate the business book section:

Professor [Stephen] 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."

So be careful, because being in touch with your emotions, as well as those of other people, might actually make you less able to spot liars on the job. Then again, good liars can fool pretty much everyone, can't they? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, can't get fooled again. Or something like that? Erm, moving on.


  1. Interesting research and it's something we have found a lot.
    People who assess themselves as high on EI are not necessarily as EI as they think they are.
    That's why many organisations we work with have started to include 360 Degree Feedback on behaviours that indicate EQ, as observed by the people the participants work with.
    It's an important balance to the self-assessment, and can act as a mirror to help participants get a more realistic view of their skills.
    Having said that, it can be difficult
    to spot a liar, particularly if we like other things about them - all part of the 'halo' effect.


  2. "Emotional Intelligence" is a contradiction in terms. It is important I think to be polite and fair to others, but not try to identify with them emotionally to any great extent, excepting only close friends and family.

    And for precisely the reasons noted. The wicked invariably employ the virtues of the good as weaponry against them. When they sense a sympathetic, understanding person they see ... and properly so ... a person who is willing to ignore logic and reason in preference to an illusionary sense of emotional connection.

    Those sorts of thing are generally a form of self-indulgence, wherein the "Emotionally Intelligent" person seeks validation of his moral superiority rather than anything benevolent to others.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…