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People With Low Emotional Intelligence Tend To Hold Right-Wing Views, Study Says

ryan.ford 5 Sep 2019

Researchers in Belgium have linked a lack of emotional intelligence with right-wing political views, reports PsyPost. The study, published in Emotion, found that those who lack the ability to understand and manage emotions are more likely to have right-wing and prejudiced attitudes.

The concept of emotional intelligence was developed by Yale and University of New Hampshire researchers back in 1990, and it's all about how emotions impact thinking.

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People who are emotionally intelligent tend to be empathetic, able to see different points of view, are open-minded, and bounce back from challenges, one expert told CNN.

"Some people think of emotional intelligence as a soft skill or the ability or the tendency to be nice. It's really about understanding what is going on for you in the moment so that you can make conscious choices about how you want to use your emotions and how you want to manage yourself and how you want to be seen in the world," said another.

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The study's author, University of Ghent professor Alain Van Hiel, says he's studied political psychology and ideology for a long time.

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"The observation that left-wing and right-wing adherents tend to differ on so many psychological characteristics is amazing," he said.

"Many scholars have investigated the cognitive basis of ideology in general, and right-wing ideological attitudes in particular. In the present study, we wanted to investigate if a similar relationship would exist for emotional abilities."

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And so the researchers enlisted more than 900 undergrads in Belgium to examine their emotional abilities and their political views.

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Measuring emotional intelligence can be tricky, so the test subjects went through three different tests for emotional abilities: the Situational Test of Emotional Understanding, the Situational Test of Emotion Management, and the Geneve Emotion Recognition Test.

The results came back pretty clear.

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Those with poor emotional abilities, especially with understanding and managing emotions, favored authoritarian and social dominance views.

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Basically, they were more likely to embrace and submit to political authority and express hostility to other groups, and to prefer inequality among groups.

"The results of this study were univocal," Van Hiel said. "People who endorse authority and strong leaders and who do not mind inequality — the two basic dimensions underlying right-wing political ideology — show lower levels of emotional abilities."

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Indeed, President Trump has been called out for his lack of emotional intelligence.

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In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Mike Gerson, a former advisor to President George W. Bush, said that "Trump's most consequential deficit may lie in is emotional intelligence," noting that "his incapacity for empathy results in cruelty that strikes at the moral core of American greatness."

"Trump is unable to find any value in the views of a political opponent, which puts both national healing and useful compromise beyond his abilities," he continued. "He is only capable of governing on behalf of those who support him, making him vulnerable to manipulation through flattery."

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Van Hiel, meanwhile, suggests pumping the brakes just a bit with his research.

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"Caution should be exercised in the interpretation of such results," he said. "One cannot discredit any ideology on the basis of such results as those presently obtained. Only in a distant future we will be able to look back upon our times, and then we can maybe judge which ideologies were the best. Cognitively and emotionally smart people can make wrong decisions as well.

"The results have been obtained in one particular context. Would similar results be obtained in other contexts besides in a Western country with a long-standing stable democracy? Whether these tendencies are universal, or limited to particular contexts, is very intriguing."

h/t: PsyPost

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