Young women with high emotional intelligence more likely to be manipulative

New research conducted by Plymouth University shows that young women with high emotional intelligence (EI) are more likely to use manipulative behaviours, resulting in a greater engagement in delinquency.

The research, led by Dr Alison Bacon, Lecturer in Psychology, was conducted to assess why young women with high levels of EI are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour than young men – a conclusion drawn from her 2014 paper, ‘Sex differences in the relationship between sensation seeking, trait emotional intelligence and delinquent behaviour‘.

Two hundred and fifty-two young adults – 125 female – took part in the study, which saw them complete measures of EI; Machiavellianism, the personality type predisposed to conniving and deceptive behaviour; the managing emotions of others scale (MEOS); and self-reported delinquent behaviour.

The MEOS sees participants answer standard questions on how they adapt their behaviour depending on, or to affect, the emotions of others, and the young women with high EI in the study showed they were more likely to engage in non-prosocial behaviours which may be inauthentic, concealing the truth and may worsen others’ feelings.

High EI females also presented higher levels of Machiavellian tactics and delinquency; both in literal delinquent behaviours and in relationships, such as social exclusion or coercion.

Dr Bacon said: “The results suggest that high EI may enable manipulative relational behaviours in some females, which in turn support delinquency aimed at fulfilment of social or material goals.

“The study was conducted on a group of students and is not suggesting for a second that all young women with high emotional intelligence have these behavioural tendencies. It’s just an interesting line of research to follow given that very little work has been conducted on EI and what it might facilitate in terms of non-prosocial behaviour.

“As a result of these findings, the next study will be to investigate exactly why young women with high EI might be more prone to using manipulative behaviours resulting in a higher level of delinquency. I would hypothesise that it’s partly due to evolution – in some circumstances, young women may have come to see social survival as more important than social niceties, so manipulation may have been an adaptive behaviour which has continued through to the present day – but we will find out when the study takes place.”

The full study, entitled ‘Manipulative relational behaviour and delinquency: sex differences and links with emotional intelligence‘, is available to view in The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology.


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      That’s not necessarily the fault of the author of the article. That’s a reality of the publishing industry, especially of professional journals. They have control of the articles that appear in their journals and, if you want to read them, you pay dearly for them. Check with your local university or local public library to see if they might provide free access to the journal or article.

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    It depends on the individuals core personality. High EI in the hands of a selfish person could be destructive and manipulating. However, high EI in a kind person is a selfless and beautiful thing. May I suggest that my second scenario contains the person with the highest EI as the former is clearly lacking something.

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      May I suggest that there is no evolutionary mechanism that would support your suggestion, however “beautiful” its proposed result might be? Why do you think EI evolved? It’s an individual’s tool for understanding and altering the minds of other creatures, thus it would be selected for individual genetic success. The selection process for altruistic social traits like kindness involves sacrifice of individual genetic success in favor of closely related neighbors. These two selection processes work at cross-purposes.

      In a kinship group with a mix of high and low EI and kindness individuals, the low-EI/high-kindness individuals would lose out to the high-EI/low-kindness individuals, selecting for the latter. Granted that, it would seem that kinship groups would have to thrive on one or the other strategy, a communal strategy focusing on altruistic traits and an individualist strategy focusing on EI traits. But, not both.

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    “The study was conducted on a group of students and is not suggesting for
    a second that all young women with high emotional intelligence have
    these behavioural tendencies.”

    Sometimes, you don’t have to manipulate people. Sometimes, they fall over themselves to cast you in the rosiest possible light in ways they would never do for others.

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    In my own experience with the opposite sex. I would estimate 75-80% of the young women i have encountered fit this profile, and it’s about time we stared profiling. Machiavellian tactics and delinquency do not belong in a relationship, let alone to be freely expressed in society. Perhaps it stands to reason. High EI+immaturity= asshole.