Emotional Intelligence

Can you measure emotional intelligence?
Answered by Bambi Turner and Curiosity
  • Bambi Turner

    Bambi Turner

  • Curiosity


  1. Just as IQ tests are used to measure cognitive intelligence, psychologists and researchers have developed a series of similar tests to measure emotional intelligence. Some of the most widely used tests of emotional intelligence, including the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence test (MSCEIT) rely on self-reported answers from those who take them. These tests describe a series of emotional events to test-takers, and then ask the respondents to rate how they would react to these events [source: Caruso]. One of the biggest problems with these types of tests lies in what researchers call self-reporting bias. This occurs when test subjects rate themselves more highly than others would, says D.L. Paulhus, author of "The Role of Constructs in Psychological and Educational Measurement." Another potential difficulty associated with these tests is that they tend to reward conformity by correlating scores to how closely people's answers match those of other test-takers. This consensus-based grading often is criticized because it assumes that there is only one correct emotional reaction to any given scenario.

    One could argue, however, that these tests provide at least a basic measure of emotional intelligence in that they evaluate a person's understanding of social norms. A test-taker who is successful in choosing the "right" answer, or the one that's most popular among the entire testing population, has at least a basic understanding of how others perceive and handle a situation. This suggests that researchers can effectively measure some components of artificial intelligence to use in education, such as social awareness, using traditional self-reporting tests. Doing so helps them better use technology for instruction by understanding what's behind thought and intelligent behavior.

    The Emotional Competence Test (ECI) offers a different approach by eliminating the potential for bias or faking that's often associated with self-reported responses. The ECI asks people who know the person being tested to guess what his or her reaction or response to a variety of emotion-related scenarios would be, then compiles these answers to determine the emotional intelligence score [source:Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations].

    One advantage to the ECI test is that it takes away self-reporting bias on a conscious and sub-conscious level. Not only does it eliminate our natural instinct to present ourselves in the best possible light, but it also tests our real-world abilities to control emotions as seen by those who know us, not just our own perceptions of these abilities.

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  2. Measuring intelligence can be done with a wealth of standardized tests -- from the SAT to IQ tests, scientists attempt to put a numerical value on our book smarts. Many researchers claim that putting a similar number on our emotional intelligence is impossible. Our emotional reactions to any given situation are rooted in the context of the event -- factors like how well we know the people involved, the impact of the event on our lives, even the kind of day we're having. To try to measure such a response in a laboratory setting isn't feasible, according to some researchers. These researchers also point to the variety of emotions that we experience, claiming that it's too hard to synthesize our many feelings into one number. Someone who deals well with anger, for example, may not deal well with guilt, so how could a measurement reflect that? And whose definition of anger or guilt would we even use? Some researchers claim that emotional intelligence can't even be a form of intelligence because the answers to these questions are so subjective. Other researchers, however, have developed several tests designed to assess emotional intelligence, despite the controversy of whether such quantification is possible.

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