Industrial Psychiatry Journal

: 2015  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 54--58

The relation between emotional intelligence and criminal behavior: A study among convicted criminals

Neelu Sharma1, Om Prakash2, KS Sengar1, Suprakash Chaudhury3, Amool R Singh1,  
1 Department of Clinical Psychology, RINPAS, Kanke, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India
2 Clinical Psychologist, Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences (Deemed University), Rural Medical College, Loni, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Neelu Sharma
Department of Clinical Psychology, RINPAS, Kanke, Ranchi - 834 006, Jharkhand


Background: Lack of emotional intelligence (EI) may lead to maladjustment and inability to achieve desired goals. A relationship between low levels of EI and crime has been proposed. Aim: The aim was to assess the relationship between EI and criminal behavior. Materials and Methods: Study sample consisted of 202 subjects, in whom 101 subjects were convicted offenders, and 101 were matched normal controls. Offender group comprised of individuals convicted for different crimes such as murder, rape, and robbery, selected from Birsa Munda Central Jail, Hotwar, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India based on purposive sampling. Sample of the normal control group was taken from Ranchi and nearby areas. All subjects gave informed consent for participating in the study. Both the groups were matched on age, gender, education, occupation, and marital status. All participants were assessed on General Health Questionnaire-12 and Mangal Emotional Intelligence Inventory (MEII). The results were analyzed using statistical package SPSS-version 20. Results: The group of convicted offenders obtained significantly lower scores on all the domains of MEII such as intrapersonal awareness (own emotions), interpersonal awareness (others emotions), intrapersonal management (own emotions) and interpersonal management (others emotions), and aggregate emotional quotient in comparison to their normal counterparts. Conclusion: The convicted offenders group had significantly lower EI compared to normal subjects. Starting EI enhancement program in prison can help the inmates better understand their feelings and emotions.

How to cite this article:
Sharma N, Prakash O, Sengar K S, Chaudhury S, Singh AR. The relation between emotional intelligence and criminal behavior: A study among convicted criminals.Ind Psychiatry J 2015;24:54-58

How to cite this URL:
Sharma N, Prakash O, Sengar K S, Chaudhury S, Singh AR. The relation between emotional intelligence and criminal behavior: A study among convicted criminals. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Oct 30 ];24:54-58
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Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capacity to understand and manage emotion; however, the content and boundaries of this construct remain unsettled. [1] Mayer and Salovey, the who originally used the term, defined EI: The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth. [2] They identified two areas of EI: experiential (ability to perceive, respond, and manipulate emotional information without necessarily understanding it) and strategic (ability to understand and manage emotions without necessarily perceiving feelings well or fully experiencing them). [2],[3] Bar-On, the originator of the term "emotion quotient," possessing a slightly different outlook, defines EI as being concerned with understanding oneself and others, relating to people, and adapting to and coping with the immediate surroundings to be more successful in dealing with environmental demands. [4] Goleman described a functional view of EI stating that the benefits of EI are to motivate individuals, assist with impulse control and regulation of mood, and allow individuals to persist in situations in which they encounter barriers to success. [5] Goleman's model outlines four main EI constructs: The first construct, self-awareness is the ability to read one's emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions. The second construct, self-management involves controlling one's emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances. The third construct, social awareness implies the ability to sense, understand, and react to other's emotions while comprehending social networks. The fourth construct, relationship management includes the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict. [6] Collectively, these factors help individuals function effectively on a daily basis and in this respect, EI can be conceptualized as a person's "success-oriented traits." [7]

The construct of EI is important because it provides a framework to understand how emotional states affect social functioning, and it may have a predictive value above and beyond that of cognitive intelligence with regard to real life outcomes. [8] EI has been likened to several other psychological constructs including Thorndike's social intelligence (the ability to understand others and act wisely in relationships), [9] Gardner's theory on multiple intelligences (e.g. intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence), [10] practical intelligence (one's ability to deal with real-life problems), [11] and the condition of alexithymia (characterized by difficulty identifying one's emotions, difficulty describing emotions to others, constricted imaginal processes, and an externally-focused, stimulus-specific cognitive style). [12],[13]

Emotional intelligence is deeply related to aggression and offending. [14],[15],[16],[17] Persons with high EI levels are more able to moderate their emotions and are less impulsive. On the other hand, individuals with low EI levels are more prone to risky behavior. They also have a hard time understanding situations from the perspective of others and, therefore, tend to be less empathetic. [18] Individuals with higher EI levels have a better ability to empathize, generally leading to their ability to conform better to organizational requirements. [19] A reduced capacity to regulate emotions could possibly maintain offending pattern of behavior in criminals. For example, internet child sexual abuse is often preceded by unregulated negative feelings. [3] It is argued that the offending behavior itself can become a means of dissipating and regulating this negative affect. [20] A reduced capacity to regulate emotions in young people with offending difficulties could also result in what is referred to as emotions exerting their full "motivational force." [21] A reduced capacity to regulate anger, desire, and sexual arousal may result in an assault, theft, and sexual assault, respectively. [21]

Some recent studies, consistently report EI deficits in criminals. [22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28] In addition, some studies indicate that offenders are deficient in subcomponents of EI such as social problem-solving, [23] empathy, [24] social competency, [25] flexibility, [26] impulse control, [27] and self-regard. [28] In view of the paucity of Indian studies in this area, the present study was designed to investigate the relationship between EI and criminal behavior and compare this with a normal control group.


This study was carried out at Birsa Munda Central Jail, Hotwar Ranchi, Jharkhand, India. The project proposal was approved by the Institutional Ethical Committee. Endorsement from the prison authority was also taken.


This was between the group design studies consisting of two groups: convicted criminals group and normal control group.


The study sample consisted of 202 subjects, in which 101 were convicted persons from Birsa Munda Central Jail, Hotwar, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India and 101 were normal controls. Criminals group comprised convicted offenders involved in different crimes such as murder, rape, and robbery. Samples of offender group were selected based on the purposive sampling. Sample of matched normal control group was taken from Ranchi and nearby areas.

Inclusion criteria for offender group

Male prisoners convicted for crimes such as murder, robbery or sexual crimes.Educated up to 10 th Std.Age range 25-45.Gave informed consent to participate in the study.Inclusion criteria for normal control group

Male participants who had not been convicted or accused by any court for any crime.Educated up to 10 th Std.Age range 25-45.Gave informed consent to participate in the study.Exclusion criteria for offender group and normal control group

Family history of mental illnessVision or hearing impairmentHistory of any psychiatric or physical illnessScores of 2 or more on General Health Questionnaire (GHQ).Tools

Sociodemographic data sheet

This is a semi-structured performa. It contains information about sociodemographic variables such as age, sex, religion, education, marital status, domicile, and occupation of the subjects.

General Health Questionnaire-12

The GHQ-12 is a self-administered screening test, which is sensitive to the presence of psychiatric disorders in individuals presenting in primary care settings and nonpsychiatric clinical settings. The GHQ-12 is not designed to detect symptoms that occur with specific psychiatric diagnoses, rather, it provides a measure of overall psychological health or wellness. The GHQ-12 has a sensitivity of 89% and specificity of 80%. [29]

Mangal Emotional Intelligence Inventory

The Mangal Emotional Intelligence Inventory (MEII) was used to measures the EI of the persons. It contains 100 items, 25 each from the four areas or aspects of EI namely, intrapersonal awareness (knowing about one's own emotion), interpersonal awareness (knowing about other's emotion), intrapersonal management (managing one's own emotion), and interpersonal management (managing others emotion). The subject has to respond either "yes" or "no" in each item. Reliability of test is 0.92 (Test Re-test method) and validity of this test is 0.71 from the intervalidity formula. [30]


After taking formal permission from prison authority to conduct the study in prison, the participant prisoners were briefly introduced with the purpose and aim of the study. GHQ-12 was administered on both the convicted group and normal control group to rule out any probable psychiatric disorders and these subjects were excluded from the study. Informed consent was obtained from both the groups for the study Sociodemographic information was collected using sociodemographic data sheet. MEII was administered upon all the participants to assess their EI.

Statistical analysis

The results were analyzed using statistical package SPSS-version 20 IBM. Sociodemographic variables of both the groups were analyzed and compared using Chi-square test. Age and performance of both the groups on MEII were analyzed by using t-test.


The study group comprised of 101 convicted offenders involved in different crimes such as murder, rape, and robbery. An equal number of age and sex-matched normal subjects comprised the control group. Sociodemographic characteristics of the sample revealed that there was no significant difference found between the two groups on sociodemographic characteristics that is, age, education, employment, marital status, except religion, and residence. In both the groups majority of participants were educated up to intermediate, unemployed, married belonging to rural background, middle economic status, and Hindu community [Table 1].{Table 1}

On the MEII the offender group obtained significantly lower scores in comparison to the normal control group on all the subscales of EI such as intrapersonal awareness (own emotions), interpersonal awareness (others emotions), intrapersonal management (own emotions) and interpersonal management (others emotions), and aggregate emotional quotient [Table 2]. These differences suggest that overall emotional adjustment of offenders group were grossly inferior on all the subscales of the test. It also suggests their poor emotional control in comparison to the normal control group.{Table 2}


In the present study, we explored the level of EI in convicted offenders and compared this with the normal control group and found that criminals had low EI significantly. This finding is consistent with some recent studies, which reported that criminals have deficits in EI. [22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28] In the current study four sub-domains of EI were measured, that is, intrapersonal awareness, interpersonal awareness, intrapersonal management, and interpersonal management. The convicted persons group was grossly impaired in all the domains of EI. This finding is also supported by findings of the previous researches. [22],[31] The result of the present study, reveals that offender group was more impaired on intrapersonal management subscale, which is responsible for the effectively dealing of one's own emotion [Table 2]. Impaired performance on this subscale suggests poor emotional management with the self in offender group. In the present study, participants of the normal group have scored preferably well on all the domains of EI, which suggests their suitable emotional awareness, adjustment, and ability to exchange the emotions with others. To this point, it is interesting to note that EI appears to be strongly related to personality in noncriminal populations, [32],[33] although there is some debate as to whether it is a unique cognitive construct [34] or a part of another personality trait. [33] Some subcomponents of EI such as social problem-solving also correlate with personality in offenders. [35]

Impulsivity is one of most important characteristic of the personality of criminals, which force them to act haphazardly. Impulse control, problem-solving, and social skills are the components of EI, which was impaired in offenders in the present study as they performed poorly on all the subcomponents of EI test. Offenders demonstrate lower levels of flexibility and higher rates of impulsivity. [26] Flexibility and impulsivity were found to interact with each other in the utilization of fantasy as a forum for planning and organizing violent crimes. [36] Offenders also tend to generate fewer means for solving problems, [37] adopt aggressive problem-solving strategies, [38] and precede impulsivity in problem-solving. [39] Interestingly, higher impulsivity relates to poorer social problem-solving skills and the latter relates to greater aggression. [40]

Malevolent creativity is defined as "the interaction among aptitude process, and environment by which an individual or group produce novel and useful ideas as defined within a social context …. that are intended to materially, mentally or physically harm oneself or others." [41] Harmful acts such as terrorism, deception, abuse, and theft can be malevolently creative. [42] Currently, the literature suggests that perceptions of unfair situations facilitate the generations of malevolently creative ideas; [43] trait physical aggression positively relates to malevolent creativity, while conscientiousness and EI relate negatively to malevolent creativity. [41],[44] It is therefore, suggested that future studies should assess both EI and malevolent creativity in criminals.


Small sample size was a drawback of the present study. The study and control groups were not matched for religion and residence, which may have affected the results. The female population was excluded from the study thus limiting its generalization. Future studies can compare the performance of male and female prisoners on EI to see which gender performs better in emotional dealing.


The offenders group had significantly lower EI in comparison to the normal group. The offenders group was found to be impaired in dealing with the emotions, whether they deal with their own emotions or dealing with other's emotions. In view of the above starting, EI enhancement program in prison can help the inmates better understand their feelings and emotions.


We are grateful to the Superintendent of Hotwar Central Jail (Ranchi, Jharkhand, India) for his support in conducting this study. We thank all the staff and inmates of the prison for their co-operation.


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