Manipulators are great at reading emotions

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Reading emotions can be quite useful if you want to use people.

Have you ever had someone identify your sadness with just a mere glance, or recognize the fear behind your pretend toughness? Sometimes, these emotionally aware people seem genuinely caring. After all, they can read your heart and mind like nobody else, understanding the deepest angles of your soul. However, a University of Michigan study suggests some of these super sharp people just use this talent to control others!

Researchers ran 2 experiments in order to prove that not all mind-readers care about helping others. They focused on volunteers who were “narcissistic” (self-centered) and who showed high amounts of exploitativeness – being skilled at getting other people to do things for them. Apparently, these “concerned” folks were just as good at identifying emotions as individuals who were truly empathetic – feeling what others feel.

For example, 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 scored higher in exploitativeness 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. Why are these people so good at knowing what others are feeling?

“Negative emotions can often signal vulnerability,” said Sara Konrath, research assistant professor at the Institute for Social Research. Basically, these folks take this sign of emotional weakness as an invitation to use a person how they wish.

Want to know how well you can read emotions? Well, the university offers an online quiz. Whether you score high or low, I hope you don’t exploit anyone!

Featured image courtesy of the University of Michigan.