A supposedly "good" trait could have a dark side, according to a new study.
Researchers from Kyoto University found that emotional intelligence -- which is typically thought to be a boon to relationships and prosocial behavior -- could also increase the ability to manipulate others.
"Emotional intelligence itself is neither positive nor negative, but it can facilitate interpersonal behaviors for achieving goals," study researcher Yuki Nozaki said in a statement.
For the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, college students had their emotional intelligence measured and underwent a series of experiments. In one of them, they examined a situation where a person was ignored or excluded in a monetary game, which involved accepting a fair offer (which would not harm anyone in the game) or rejecting a fair offer (to the detriment of everyone in the game, including the person being ostracized).
Researchers found that the more emotionally intelligent a person was and the weaker his or her intention was to retaliate, the more likely he or she was to say that the person should not retaliate and should accept the fair offer.
But what they also found was that the more emotionally intelligent a person was and the stronger his or her intention to retaliate, the more likely he or she was to say that the person should reject the fair offer.
"The results of this study are consistent with the recent suggestion that emotionally intelligent people can regulate emotions to accomplish their own goals rather than to achieve general prosocial outcomes," the researchers wrote in the study. "However, previous studies did not directly assess the goals or behaviors for regulating others' emotions in a given interpersonal situation. Therefore, this is the first laboratory study that empirically reveals that people with high interpersonal EI influence others' emotions based on their own goals."