The present research explores the link between the personality trait exploitativeness, a component of narcissism, and emotion recognition abilities. Prior research on this topic has produced inconsistent findings. We attempt to resolve these inconsistencies by testing the hypothesis that narcissistic exploitativeness, in particular, should be associated with emotion-reading abilities because it specifically taps into the motivation to manipulate others. Across two studies we find that narcissistic exploitativeness is indeed associated with increased emotion recognition, but in some cases the confounding effects of mood need to be considered (Study 1). Importantly, effect sizes of narcissistic exploitativeness were similar in magnitude to two different measures of dispositional empathy, which is an established correlate of emotion recognition. These studies suggest that emotional recognition abilities are associated with desirable and undesirable traits.