The Yin and Yang of Emotional Intelligence

Research shows emotional skills can be used for good or for evil.

Research shows emotional skills can be used for good or for evil.

It’s hard to believe it, but Princess Diana and Charles Manson have something in common: they’re both emotionally intelligent. They are good at identifying and regulating their own and others’ emotions. Although people often associate having emotional intelligence with having a good moral character, a study published in Psychological Science found that emotional intelligence can be used for good or for evil.

In the first experiment, volunteers were measured on their moral identity and took part of a game that directly assessed their moral kindness behaviors. People who had a high moral identity were kinder to others n the group game, and this effect was even stronger for people good at emotion regulation, a component of emotional intelligence. In the second experiment, volunteers were measured on how Machiavellian they were and on a number of behaviors that have hurt others in some way. People who were Machiavellian were more likely to have maltreated others, and this effect was particularly strong for those who were good at emotion regulation.

These findings show that being emotionally intelligent does not necessarily make you a saint. People can use their skills to hurt others or pursue selfish goals as well. Just as with power, with great emotional intelligence comes great responsibility.

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