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Nov 01, 2013 09:44 AM EDT

Manipulators Are Adept At Reading Emotions, Mistaken For Empathizer


People should not assume that someone who can identify their emotions or read their feelings has their best intention at heart, according to a new study reported by Medical Xpress.

Although emotionally intelligent people seem genuinely caring, some of these super sharp people might use these skills to control others, research from the University of Michigan suggests.

Both manipulative and empathetic people are equally capable of reading others' emotions, according to researchers, who conducted two studies examining the relationship between narcissism, empathy and emotion recognition.

The two studies, which appear in the current online issue of the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, are the first to show a consistent relationship between narcissistic exploitativeness and higher emotional intelligence, according to Medical Xpress.

Some of the participants were narcissistic or self-centered and were skilled at getting people to do things for them. The study showed the exploiters were just as good as identifying emotions as individuals who were truly empathetic.

It's possible that emotionally intelligent people may manipulate others' behaviors to suit their own interest.

According to Cluehouse News, in the first experiment, a group of college students had to identify the emotions of someone in a picture just by looking at their eyes. Those who were exploitative identified negative emotions easily.

 The same rang true for the second experiment, where participants had to look at 20 faces and identify what emotion they were feeling.

"Negative emotions can often signal vulnerability," said Sara Konrath, research assistant professor at the Institute for Social Research.

This suggests that people who can recognize emotions may take this sign of emotional weakness as an invitation to use a person how they wish. According to Konrath, exploitative people may see caution and doubt in others as signs of uncertainty and low confidence.

Individuals who display such negative facial expressions may, therefore, be targets of exploiters' manipulation attempts.

And since good emotion-recognition skills might seem like concern or empathy, their targets may not have a clue that they are being manipulated.

Taken together, the studies contribute to an emerging research literature examining potential "dark sides" of emotional intelligence, the Medical Express reported.

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