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Recent research that looked at the relationship between happiness and empathy found that people might have more emotional intelligence if they’re a bit blue.

December 02, 2014

There's a silver lining for Negative Nancys, although they might not see it.

Recent research that looked at the relationship between happiness and empathy found that people might have more emotional intelligence if they’re a bit blue.

For the study, published in PLOS ONE, participants were asked about their happiness level and ability to empathize. Researchers then filmed several people telling emotionally-charged stories about their lives and asked them to rate their emotions on a nine-point scale (from extremely negative to extremely positive) while watching a video of their speech.

Next, they had more than 100 people watch the monologues and rate the speakers' emotions. Finally, they compared the two sets of ratings.

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The researchers found that happier people were worse at empathizing with highly negative emotions than their less-than-chipper peers. For example, positive participants found it “harder to judge the emotional tone” of a monologue about the death of a parent, according to New York magazine's Science of Us blog.

The upbeat folks also overestimated their empathetic abilities, ranking their judgment levels on a higher scale than their negative peers. But in the end, they were no better than anyone else at identifying most emotions, and frankly worse in the empathy department.

So not only does misery love company, it's better at recognizing it, too.

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