Bloom to Gloom-Emotional Intelligence and Employee Silence: An Empirical Study from Pakistan

  • SAEED, Sadia (Department of Management Science, National University of Modern Languages) ;
  • AKHTAR, Naveed (Department of Management Science, National University of Modern Languages) ;
  • HUSSAIN, Shariq (Department of Software Engineering, Foundation University Islamabad)
  • Received : 2021.08.30
  • Accepted : 2021.11.15
  • Published : 2021.12.30


The objective of the current research study is to examine those elements/factors that can reduce silence so that organizations can become more efficient, innovative, and adaptable by sharing knowledge and work-related problems. The purpose behind conducting this research was to explore the effects of emotional intelligence on silent behavior. The study also focuses on other individual negative aspects that can increase counterproductive behavior like silence and examines the effects of emotional intelligence on silence through moral disengagement. Data was collected from 400 employees using stratified sampling to ensure adequate representation of males and females. Data was collected from nurses and young doctors using the adopted measurement scale through a self-administered questionnaire. Since the sample included nursing staff and they usually are not well versed in English, the instrument was translated into Urdu. Data were analyzed using SEM to assess the direct and indirect effects of EI on employee silence. The result indicates that emotional intelligence has a positive impact on employee silence and moral disengagement. In contradiction to theory, the findings suggest that people with high emotional intelligence tend to get morally disengaged. As a result, they will remain silent and withhold information regarding work-related issues and problems.


1. Introduction

Our society has been facing many problems since we entered the new millennium. Problems related to economies, health, culture, environment, and geopolitical are getting worse with every passing day and live peacefully. There are varying opinions, but Most researchers agree that to solve these worrisome problems of society, citizens of the society need to develop emotional and social skills along with well-developed intellectual abilities (Pfeiffer, 2001). This revelation is the reason behind vastly growing curiosity in the notion of emotional intelligence (Pfeiffer, 2001) for the past few decades. This change of view is translating into the business world also. People who can share knowledge and are not hesitant or fearful of sharing even the troublesome information are much needed in the organization. The intensity of competition and higher customer focus, and dynamicity of the environment in today’s world have forced organizations to demand more openness, speak up and accept responsibility, and take initiatives (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997).

However, silence is still prevalent in the organization. It causes serious adverse effects such as job dissatisfaction, lower commitment, and other negative work-related attitudes on the individual level and poor organizational performance, learning, and innovation at the organizational level. For example, the largest corporate bankruptcy in US history, Enron, was essentially due to losing critically important and on-time information from front-line employees. This disaster could have been prevented if employees had used their voices. Since the research on silence is tilted towards the problems silence can create in organizations. Once the factors that can contribute to decreasing this CWB are identified, organizations would be able to create open communication and work more efficiently. The motivation behind the present study is to examine the impact of emotional intelligence. Moreover, the study focuses on whether emotional intelligence can reduce negative behaviors.

This study aims to recognize such factors that can reduce silence so that organizations can become more efficient, innovative, and adaptable by sharing knowledge and work related problems. “Emotional intelligence or EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you.” According to, employees who are high in emotional intelligence levels are unlikely to be caught getting involved in divergent behaviors since they are comparatively good at interpreting subtle cues present in others’ emotions easily than those who have lower levels of emotional intelligence. The present study is important because it is based on recent gaps, and it sheds light on emotional intelligence from a different perspective. Adapted from He et al. (2019): the study adopts different forms of Silence to ensure that all recognized forms of silence are incorporated and that none of the silencing behavior is left unrecorded. Hence the dependent variable for the study included all dimensions (i.e., acquiescent, quiescent, prosaically, and opportunistic) of Employee silence. This will ensure that no form of silence is left out and silent behavior is recorded regardless of the motives behind silent behavior. The existing literature on silence focuses mainly on two dimensions, either acquiescent or quiescence type of silence (Hawass & Hawass, 2016). He et al. (2019) also suggested that Moral Disengagement could partially mediate the relationship to transform silence. The research study seeks to answer the following question.

RQ 1: What impact does emotional intelligence has on employee silence?

RQ 2: What kind of mediation exist between emotional intelligence and employee silence

2. Theoretical Background and Hypotheses Development

Social learning theory was introduced in the 1960s by Albert Bandura (which was later known as the social cognitive theory in 1986. The main foundation of social cognitive theory is that human action results from three elements that act reciprocally: first: Behavior; second: cognitive and other personal factors; and third: the individual’s external environment. As the theory states that the relationship between significant factors is reciprocal, bidirectional people are both the producers and products of their environment. (Bandura, 1990) developed moral disengagement (MD) theory as an extension of SCT. Bandura et al. (1996) argued that it is possible to selectively disengage or disable the self-regulatory process that prevents immoral conduct or revenge and names this process ‘‘Moral Disengagement’’.

2.1. Employee Silence

Employees may observe the violation of social, legal, economic, and organizational norms and rules at the workplace. Most of the time, these violations go unreported by the employees, and they become silent observers of the phenomena, and sometimes they become victims of these violations, e. g. Torture and sexual harassment. Many organizations face a situation in which people in the organization do not dare to express the truth despite knowing certain occurrences. It is a norm not to raise a voice in some organizations, and conformity to norms is perceived as a good and desirable ability (Hayden & Ghosh, 2008). Many research studies have revealed that many workers (employees) hesitate to raise their voice about the organizational problems, expressing new ideas or opinions to improve certain situations, due to fear of adverse consequences (Ryan & Oestreich, 1998). This phenomenon has caught the attention of the researchers (for example, Morrison & Milliken, 2000), and considering it as an important phenomenon, researchers have attempted to discover the antecedents and consequences of “silence” (Brinsfield, 2013; Pinder & Harlos, 2001). Researchers have been trying to understand the reasons and motivation to remain silent. Silence has been studied from different perspectives, and Silence can take many forms in the organization, from fear to norm to social acceptance (Morrison & Milliken, 2000; Van Dyne et al., 2003).

2.2. Emotional Intelligence

Salovey and Mayer (1990b) introduced a seemingly Contradictory concept—Emotional Intelligence. Traditionally, researchers and practitioners have viewed emotions as disorganized disruptions of intellectual activity and acute disturbance of the individual (Young, 1943), so they must be controlled. Another traditional school of thought defined emotion as an organizing response because of its adaptive focus on reasoning activities and actions that follow. Salovey and Mayor (1990) reported that Different authors had defined it in different terms. For example, as a unifying construct for understanding personality, constructive thinking that is adaptive and effective dealing of the environment is a core part of the personality (Epstein & Meier, 1989). Finally, accepting others and the world at large. Keeping in view these definitions, Salovey and Mayor (1990) defined EI as a variant of social intelligence that comprises of a group of capabilities like the capability to detect personal emotional states as well as other’s emotional states and capability to different feelings and emotions and effectively using the information channelize efforts, emotions, and the philosophy. These include; a) assessment and evaluation of personal and other’s emotions, b) managing and controlling personal and other’s emotions and c) using emotional information according to the situation” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). EI has always been advocated as a positive and constructive factor for influencing behavior in the organization. However, it can lead to manipulative behaviors as well. Although Carr (2000) raised the concern over the negative side of emotional intelligence, very few researchers have focused on that side of emotional intelligence. The main interest of the study is to find out the impact of emotional intelligence in the health sector of Pakistan and investigate the relationship between EI and CWB.

2.3. Hypothesis Development

Emotional intelligence has attracted the attention of many researchers since its first formal identification in 1990 by Salovey and Mayer (Ruvalcaba-Romero et al., 2017). Researchers have studied it its correlations and relationship with many factors and especially with counterproductive work behaviors, i.e., workplace incivility (Bibi & Karim, 2013), negative behaviors (Keskin et al., 2016), and emotional labor and personality (Raman et al., 2016). Jung and Yoon (2012) studied the effect of EI on both CWBs and OCBs (organizational citizenship behavior). Miao et al. (2017) also focused on the impact of EI on CWB and OCB. CWB is a deliberate behavior that is supposed to harm the workers of a firm or the firm itself, and it comprises all activities intended to hurt (Spector & Fox, 2002). Evidence suggests that EI is positively associated with mental and physical well-being, life & job satisfaction, Happiness (Che et al., 2018), psychological well-being (Salovey et al., 2002), effective leadership behaviors (Downey et al., 2006), “job satisfaction”(Kim, 2016; Wong & Law, 2002), project success (Doan et al., 2020) and affective commitment (Carmeli, 2003). Emotional intelligence links reasoning, emotions, and feelings that enables a person to adapt to a different environment (e. g., Salovey & Grewal, 2005).

According to Petrides’ et al. (2007) comparison, high EI was significantly related to less deviant behaviors compared to the low levels of emotional intelligence. Researchers have reported that highly emotionally intelligent people have lower chances of getting involved in unethical activities of CWB (Jessica et al., 2010; Miao et al., 2017). However, few research scholars have reported that EI might not prove to be helpful in all situations (for example, Ingsih et al., 2020; Nguyen et al., 2020). It might be used negatively to manipulate the behavior in the organization. For example, Segon and Booth (2015) reported that the ethical element in emotional intelligence was missing. Similarly, Kish-Gephart et al. (2009) stated that empathetic anger could result in a feeling of vengeance. Carr (2000)warned about the possible adverse effects of emotional intelligence. In light of the above discussion following hypothesis is developed.

H1: Emotional intelligence can influence employee silence.

Pittarello et al. (2018) reported that when employees have narrow control over their emotions, they will likely fail in social relations and encounter adverse emotions that result in counterproductive work behaviors. Studies have shown that high emotional intelligence results in more positive moods and the ability to repair after negative moods (Schutte et al., 2002). According to researchers (Lee & Allen, 2002), cognition and emotions are the drivers of human action. MD has gotten special attention in the moral cognition process for the past few years (He et al., 2019). Negative emotions can lead to moral disengagement, which can lead to counterproductive behavior (Fida et al., 2015). Hystad et al. (2014) study also present the same positive association between MD and counterproductive behavior.

Since “moral disengagement” is theorized as a process and a disposition, how should it be empirically tested? If it is taken as a trait, it should be studied as a moderator, and if it is taken as a process, it should be taken as a mediator (Moore, 2015). Moore (2015) reported that both these approaches were successful. This study considers that moral disengagement is a process that is why moral disengagement is taken as a mediator. Various other researchers (Duffy et al., 2012; Hodge & Lonsdale, 2011; Leidner et al., 2010; Ogunfowora et al., 2013; Paciello et al., 2013) have tested the mediation effects of MD. Wang et al. (2017) tested the mediation between aggression and empathy. Hyde et al. (2010) also tested the association between empathy and damaging conduct through adverse effects on moral disengagement. These findings highlight the intervention of moral disengagement in the connection between “empathy” and “aggression.” These studies point to the complicated cooperative methods that are combined to harvest our moral behavior. In addition, researchers have explored the intervening properties of moral disengagement on morally problematic effects by individual-level predictors. The process of self-regulation method and self-sanctions motivate and allow the individual to regulate behavior in such a way that conforms to societal standards of moral conduct. However, as Bandura has suggested that these self-sanctions are only effective when activated while individuals can successfully disconnect themselves from this self-sanction using different psychological processes (Bandura, et al., 1996). Rendering to Bandura’s theory of MD (moral disengagement), violent behavior is cognitively fabricated through moral disengagement in a process to change the form of that behavior to make it look not destructive or less destructive to others and oneself. The discussion is helpful to develop the following hypothesis.

H2: Silence is influenced through the impact of emotional intelligence on moral disengagement.

3. Research Methods

3.1. Reliability and Validity

Healthcare systems are amongst the top 5 employing the largest workforce in the world (Pope, 2019). Corruptions in the system are found everywhere. These corrupt behaviors are not just seriously harmful to the wellbeing and health of the public. Instead, they pose a permanent threat to the general public’s health as these counterproductive behaviors go unreported most of the time. In his research Pope (2019) has noted the work of renowned researchers like Walshe and Shortell (2004) and Carmeli & Josman (2006) to support his argument. Walshe and Shortall (2004) reported that despite so much eloquence about the pre-eminence of patients’ interests, those interests are recurrently subordinated to the needs and interests of health care organizations and professionals. The population of the study is individuals of the healthcare system. The health care system is essential for the wellbeing of society, and employee silence is considered very significant in this context. Başoğul and Özgür, (2016) tested the association between role of EI and conflict management on nursing staff. Since the proposed study seeks to examine the impact of emotional intelligence on silent behavior, it was justifiable to test the model on health care staff (young doctors and nurses who are at the lowest level in the hierarchy.

Data was collected from 400 employees using stratified sampling to ensure adequate representation of males and females. The instrument to measure each variable were adopted and adapted according to the study requirements: emotional intelligence (Schutte et al., 1998); employee silence (Knoll & van Dick, 2013) . Since the sample included nursing staff and they usually are not well versed in English, the instrument was translated into Urdu. The translation method was translated back, which is the most popular method for assessing the quality of translation (Tyupa, 2011). Structural equation modeling (SEM) is used to analyze the data. Data was collected after the consent of the individuals; however, most of them provided data on one condition of not providing their details (names, email addresses, designation, and even the organization name). Therefore, the data collection process was personally administered. Forty-nine percent of respondents were males and 51 percent females, of which 49% belonged to the younger group (below 30 years), and the rest was above 30 and up to 50 (Table 1).

Table 1: Descriptive Statistics

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Note: *p-value < 0.1; **p-value < 0.05; ***p-value < 0.001. Significant at the 0.05 level. EI (emotional intelligence); MD (Moral Disengagement).

3.2. Statistical Analysis

The reliability of the scale was measured through Cronbach’s Alpha. A Cronbach’s alpha value ranging from 0.5 to 0.6 is considered sufficient for exploratory researches (Nunnally, 1967). According to (Gliem & Gliem 2003), ≥ 0.9 is excellent reliability, ≥ 0.8 is good reliability, and 0.7 is an acceptable value of reliability. The Cronbach’s Alpha values 0.7 (silence) and 0. 8 (emotional intelligence) indicate the internal consistency of the scales (Table 2).

Table 2: Reliability, Correlation

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EI (emotional intelligence); MD 9Moral Disengagement: **Correlation is significant at two-tailed.

Structural equation modeling was used to evaluate our two-factor model using Mplus (Version 7; Muth’en & Muthe’n, 1998–2015). First, confirmatory factor analyses were conducted to assess the fitness of the model with the data. Then structural analyses were conducted to test the hypotheses (Table 3).

Table 3: Alternative MODEL

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Note: n = 390; S-B X2 =Satorra–Bentler X2, ; RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation;

CFI = comparative fit index; TLI = Tucker–Lewis index.

Table 2 shows the construct reliabilities of the two factors that are an indication of convergent validity. The correlation shows a significant association between the two factors. Although the correlation is significant, the values (0.564, 0.872, 0.520) demonstrate that the variables are not highly correlated, establishing discriminant validity. A single factor CFA through loading all items on one latent factor was conducted to address common method variance.

Table 3 showed a poor fit to the data that is an indication that deductions that resulted from the data were not severely influenced by common method bias.

4. Results

In order to assess the measurement properties of the two factor model, a Confirmatory factor analysis was conducted. Although the statistic K-S and S-W tests (Table 3) prove normality of data, model estimation was based on robust estimation techniques following Byrne (2013). In order to be on the safe side, maximum likelihood (MLM) was used in case nonmorality was encountered (Byrne, 2013). This suggestion by Byrne (2013) led to the computation of robust measures of (Satorra–Bentler [S-B]), RMSEA (root mean square error of approximation), CFI (comparative fit index), and TLI (Tucker–Lewis index).

Table 4 shows the statistics of confirmatory factor analysis of the independent variable emotional intelligence. The result shows a good fit of data with emotional intelligence (S-B ꭓ2 = 2465.870, SE = 0.035, p < 0.001, df = 1074, RMSEA = 0.06, CFI = 0.86, TLI = 0.85). The chi square value was 1889.024 with 737 degrees of freedom (p < 0.002), (ꭓ2 /df = 2.56), which is indicative of significant differences between the data and the theory being tested. RMSEA (Root Mean Square of Error Approximation) = 0.06, which indicates that hypothesized model is from a perfect model. The RMSEA, SRMR, indicated a good fit. However, the CFI and TLI are on the borderline yet acceptable. Kyriazos (2018) reported that SEM, including confirmatory analysis, is a large sample method (Kline & Tamer, 2016). There is a consent that a small sample may create problems for model fitness (Wang & Wang, 2012), and other issues could arise. Furthermore, values > = 0.8 for comparative fit index (CFI), and Tucker–Lewis index (TLI), are generally accepted in the research (Harring et al., 2020; Vanderveren et al., 2020; Sexton & Dugas, 2008). The alternative one model tests further proved the validity of the data. Additionally, the three-factor measurement model established a better fit with the data than the alternative one-factor model, as shown in Table 3.

Table 4: Confirmatory Factor Analysis

OTGHEU_2021_v8n12_497_t0004.png 이미지

Note: n = 390; S-B X2 =Satorra–Bentler X2 ; RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation;

CFI = comparative fit index; TLI =Tucker–Lewis index.

Our first hypothesis (hypothesis 1) predicted a strong association between emotional intelligence and employee silence. A simple structural model was estimated by regressing Silence on Emotional intelligence. Table 5 shows the results. The result indicated a statistically significant and positive association between EI and Silence (β = 0.522, SE = 0. 036, p = 0.000, 95% CI [0.453, 0.592]).

Table 5: Hypothesis Testing

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β = coefficient estimates; significant level = p < 0.05; LLCI-ULCI = upper level confidence interval-lower level confidence interval.

Hypothesis 2 predicted partial intervention of moral disengagement in relationship of emotional intelligence and silence. The results in Table 6 and Figure 1 indicate a positive association between emotional intelligence and silence through moral disengagement (β = 0.413, SE = 0. 040, p = 0.000, 95% CI [0.334, 0.492]).

Table 6: Mediation Analysis

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Figure 1: Mediation Analysis

5. Discussion

The first evidence was found on the strong association between Emotional intelligence and Silence. The relationship is significant but in a positive direction. The results are consistent with the findings of Segon and Booth (2015), suggesting that the ethical element in emotional intelligence was missing. Although emotional intelligence provides individuals and Managers with valuable competencies but the purpose towards which it is directed could be questionable. This is also in alignment with the arguments of (Kish-Gephart et al., 2009). Kish-Gephart et al. (2009) stated that empathetic anger could result in a feeling of vengeance. Empathy is understanding others’ emotions and sharing the feeling of others. The results indicate the phenomenon that people may use their emotional intelligence and their skill to utilize emotion for their advantage. They try to manipulate the behavior of other people to suit their interests. This is an indication that although emotional intelligence has been long associated with positive outcomes it does have a dark aspect that makes it more obscure. Since the ethical element is missing from emotional intelligence (Segon & Booth, 2015), it can lead to negative attitudes and behaviors that suit the interests of those individuals (Austin et al., 2007).

Individuals and managers can be emotionally intelligent, yet they can behave immorally; their moral disengagement may increase with high levels of emotional intelligence. Since its conception in 1990 by Mayer and Salovey the emotional intelligence has been viewed as a positive factor; better employee (increased productivity, involvement, job satisfaction, better leader (articulating and sharing vision, improving performance), and even better spouse or child (Bariso, 2018). What is missing in these researches and theories is the dark side of emotional intelligence. Bariso (2018) recommended that emotional intelligence is just a tool and not a virtue, just like other forms of intelligence. It means that it is possible to use emotional intelligence either for good or for worse. This is the dark side of emotional intelligence that people who can recognize and evaluate the emotional state of others are in a better state to manipulate others for their advantage. Those who are highly emotionally intelligent are faced with two different choices: use their influence for good and help others or for bad and harm others (Bariso, 2018).

Second, evidence was found on the positive and strong association between emotional intelligence and Moral Disengagement and Silence. Thus, moral disengagement is a strong mediator between EI and employee silence. This finding is also consistent with He et al. (2019), Fida et al. (2015), and Hystad et al. (2014) that Moral disengagement is positively linked with CWB—Silence.

Although Emotional intelligence had been advocated as positive psychology (Caruso et al., 2002) and researchers have been advocating that Emotional intelligence is associated with positive behaviors like life satisfaction, happiness, psychological health, mutual trust, voice, and other behaviors in society and the quality of social network et cetera (Austin et al., 2005; Day et al., 2005; Furnham & Petrides, 2003; Xiaqi et al., 2012). The applicability of EI in organizational culture would require authenticity. This is “the truthful expression” of inner feelings depending on thoughtful attention to the others’ specific needs, capabilities, and well-being. Authenticity and truthfulness can enhance emotional intelligence. Contrary to that, perceptions of Machiavellianism by an organization lead people to reject other people’s words and behaviors automatically (Ugoani, 2015). Thinking like an optimist can result in a decreased or even complete lack of attention. Thinking like a pessimist, the worst that could happen is that defensive, contradictory practices are triggered (Ugoani, 2015). High levels of emotional intelligence may not be helpful in individual settings because individuals can easily measure, then magnify or misinterpret the negative emotions in others (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002; Matthews et al., 2012). The findings of Elfenbein and Ambady (2002) suggest that in the case of emotional intelligence, one size may not fit all.

5.1. Practical Implication

The study gives important insight into the very important and popular variable; emotional intelligence. The way organizations have embraced emotional intelligence has a strong interest in the professional applications of the capability. Many organizations are helping their people to develop EI capabilities that differentiate exceptional performers from ordinary ones (Cherniss & Caplan, 2001; Ugoani, 2015). It informs managers about the dark side of emotional intelligence that employees may use their emotional intelligence for manipulations in the organization. People with high emotional intelligence can engage in negative behaviors without being caught since they can easily regulate their emotions as well as manipulate others’ emotions. They can easily justify their immoral conduct or blame others. They can use people and resources to their advantage. Hence, despite the popularity of emotional intelligence, managers should recruit wisely. If they (the managers) use emotional intelligence as eligible criteria, it should be combined with other factors like personality and other psychological tests. Managers should also take care when training their employees for EI.

5.2. Theoretical Contribution

EI has long been linked with positive attitudes and behaviors in most research since its first conceptualization as intelligence in 1990 by Salovey and Mayor. However, Carr (2000) raised the issue of possible adverse effects of emotional intelligence. Interestingly, or ironically the subject of emotional manipulation and other likely destructive uses of emotional intelligence has rarely been raised within the individual differences in literature. The study gives significant insights into various factors. First, despite its prominence as a trigger of a positive attitude, it is apparent from the result that emotional intelligence can lead people to manipulate emotions to their advantage and use emotional intelligence to justify their immoral conduct. It means there is a dark side to emotional intelligence, and it should be studied in this perspective more vigorously. Second, EI has long been linked with positive behaviors and outcomes. However, emotional intelligence has a dark side, and researchers have started getting interested in it only recently. Nonetheless, research on this side of emotional intelligence is still embryonic. The current study is a great contribution in this regard as it shows how emotionally intelligent people can be involved in deviant behaviors.

6. Conclusion and Limitations

Emotional intelligence EI has long been advocated as positive psychology and associated with positive work attitudes and behaviors such as happiness, satisfaction, commitment, etc. This has led to the conception that many of the problems prevailing in organizations and society at large could be corrected through emotional intelligence. There is a long debate that people should be trained for emotional intelligence since childhood to affect their behaviors positively. Since the study results showed; otherwise, we need to be cautious about the advantages and disadvantages of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is not a virtue; instead, it is a tool. Those with a high level of emotional intelligence face two different choices; either use their influential power (that comes from knowledge of emotions) for helping others and productive work or use it for harming others. Not everyone is capable of handling intelligence with integrity. Emotional intelligence may lead to negative attitudes and behaviors in organizations.

The study is confined in certain ways that should be considered in future studies. First, the study focused only on moral disengagement. Future studies should explore different negative factors concerning emotional intelligence to explore all the dark facets of emotional intelligence. How emotional intelligence affects different positive attitudes should also be tested to comprehend the nature of emotional intelligence from all perspectives. Since the research on the dark side is still in its infancy and very few researchers have addressed this phenomenon. When examining the effects of emotional intelligence, Researchers should keep in mind that individuals may naturally tend to behave emotionally and emotionally manipulative behavior. Future studies should examine how emotional intelligence shows its dark face; for example, cultural effects or individual differences may play a vital role in explaining this phenomenon.


I would like to thank all the people who contributed in some way to the work described in this article


I would like to thank all the people who contributed in some way to the work described in this article.


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