What is it about?

Emotional intelligence (EI) - that is, how well we perceive, use, understand and manage our emotions and the emotions of others - has been associated with many positive life outcomes. As a result, many organisations often select for and train EI. Despite this, a growing body of research has begun to identify particular contexts when EI does not appear helpful and may even be deleterious to a person, or those they have contact with, suggesting a “dark” side to the construct. This paper provides a review of literature to examine when, why and how trait and ability EI may contribute to negative intrapersonal (psychological ill-health; stress reactivity) and interpersonal outcomes (emotional manipulation; antisocial behavior) and provides directions for future research.

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Why is it important?

Our review explores a 'hidden' side of EI research which is typically considered to be a positive skill set or trait. We find negative effects of having high EI are tied to the context a person is within, and also depend on pre-existing qualities of the person. Literature also points to the possibility of “optimal” levels of EI. Uneven profiles of self-perceptions (trait facets) or actual emotional skills contribute to poorer outcomes, particularly emotional awareness, and management. Moreover, individuals who possess high levels of skill but have lower self-perceptions of their abilities fare worse that those with more balanced profiles. Future research must now improve methodological and statistical practices to better capture EI in context and the negative corollary associated with high levels.


This review shines a light on an under-examined aspect of emotional intelligence and we hope this acts as a catalyst for future research and encourages critical reflection.

Dr Sarah K Davis
University of Worcester

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Does Emotional Intelligence have a “Dark” Side? A Review of the Literature, Frontiers in Psychology, August 2016, Frontiers,
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01316.
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