TESTING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

HOW TO TEST EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

There are three general ways to measure emotional intelligence: Self-Report, Other-Report and Ability measures. The MEIS is an ability test, which we believe is the best way to measure Emotional Intelligence. Let's take a look at each of these methods.

Self Report

Some tests use a self-report method. Self-report is the most common way to measure things such as personality traits. Personality traits include warmth, empathy, anxiety and so on. Here is an example of a self-report test of personality:

I often worry for no reason at all.
It's hard to fall asleep at night.
I feel down and blue a lot.
Not True  Somewhat True Very True
Not True  Somewhat True Very True
Not True  Somewhat True Very True

How do you know if you are depressed, or not, by answering these questions? In a well-developed personality test, we would have many more questions of this type, and we would ask hundreds of people to take the test. By analyzing people's responses, we would be able to determine what a low, average and high score consisted of. For instance, we may find that by answering one question Not True, one question Somewhat True and one Very True that this score is actually well above the average score. Such a series of responses would then indicate that the person with this profile may be depressed.

Self-report tests have been around for decades and they serve a very useful purpose. As a way to measure emotional intelligence, they have serious drawbacks. Emotional Intelligence consists of a number of skills. Skills are best measured by ability tests, not by self-report.

This is akin to asking you a series of questions about your intelligence:

I am very smart.
I am good at solving problems.
I have a large vocabulary.
Not True  Somewhat True Very True
Not True  Somewhat True Very True
Not True  Somewhat True Very True

This would be a great test of what you thought of your intelligence, and could be a measure of your self-image. But a test of intelligence? I don't think so.

Other Report

If Emotional Intelligence is all about people skills, why not ask other people what they think of us? On the face of it, this seems to be a legitimate means of testing emotional intelligence. But let's take a closer look at this method, called Observer Ratings, and in human resources, 360-Degree Assessment.

Observers, let's say team members, are given a form to complete about you. Here are some examples of questions that they may be asked:

Is able to read people well.
Manages emotions effectively.
Understands my emotions.
Not True  Somewhat True Very True
Not True  Somewhat True Very True
Not True  Somewhat True Very True

One team member rates you  Not True on all the items. Are you low in emotional intelligence? You certainly are, at least according to this person. But what does this person know about you? You see, their ratings of your behavior are based upon their own observations, as well as their own biases. They don't see you in all situations. They don't know how you think, or what you feel. Only you know that.

The other problems with the 360 approach are that the observers which you pick may just not like you. They have an ax to grind, and they grind that ax to sharpen the pencil as they give you uniformly low ratings. Or, if you pick people who work for you, they are probably not likely to tell you, even anonymously, that they think your leadership style reminds them of Attila the Hun.

Are 360's useless? No. They provide interesting information about how other people perceive you. They can help to better understand social skills, management skills, and so forth. They do not provide any information on whether you are emotionally intelligent or not.

 

Ability Tests

We saved the best for last. How do you determine whether you are skilled or not skilled? You test your skills of course. If you want to know if you can type, you take a typing test. A typing test does not ask you how fast you are, it does not ask a friend how fast you can type. It requires you to type.

Emotional Intelligence is a set of skills or abilities. They can be measured just like other skills or other abilities. An Emotional Intelligence ability test may have questions such as these:

A manager gives an employee unexpected negative feedback in front of other team members. How is the employee likely to feel?

Angry
Sad
Accepting
Happy
Not at All      A Little       A Lot
Not at All      A Little      A Lot
Not at All      A Little      A Lot
Not at All      A Little      A Lot

Determining the Answers

That's great, you may be thinking, but what is the correct answer? There isn't one. And I'm not being flip with you, because there really isn't a single, best answer. There are answers to this emotional intelligence test item, some of which are better than others. Here's how we figure out the best answers.

Hundreds of people have taken the MEIS. We then look at the frequency with which these people select each of the rating responses. For instance, lets say that these were the results for the example given above, listing the number of people who selected each of the ratings:

Not at All A Little A Lot
Angry
Sad
Accepting
Happy
0
10
65
90
25
50
25
10
75
40
10
0

To score the MEIS, we would compare your responses on the test to those of the hundreds and hundreds of people in the database. If you said that the person was feeling Angry "A Lot" then you would get 75 points. If you said "Not At All" you would get 0 points, and so on.

Is this a legitimate way to score a test? We certainly think so. (We will be adding to this section later on. This issue is discussed in several research papers.)

Other Ways to Score the Test

We have two other methods to score the test, but they tend to not be the best methods. I'll tell you about them so you can get a good idea of what they are about.

Expert Scoring - emotional experts indicate the best answers

Target Scoring - the person featured in the item tell us how they were feeling at the time and we use their answers as the correct answers

Each of these methods can be quite useful, and each has their own limitations. Expert scoring can tell us how people should feel, but we don't always follow such patterns of emotion. Target scoring is the self-report of emotions, the way we think we feel In reality, these three methods tend to yield pretty similar results, with the Consensus methods being the hands-down best way to score the MEIS.

 

WHAT IS THE MULTIFACTOR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE SCALE (MEIS™) ?

The MEIS is the result of several years of research. It is also, we believe, the first and the only ability test of emotional intelligence on the market.

The MEIS, developed by Dr. Jack Mayer, Dr. Peter Salovey, and Dr. David Caruso, consists of a number of different parts. The MEIS measures the four branches of emotional intelligence, based upon the theory developed by Drs. Mayer and Salovey:

Identifying Emotions - the ability to recognize how you and those around you are feeling.

Using Emotions - the ability to an generate emotion, and then reason with this emotion.

Understanding Emotions - the ability to understand complex emotions and emotional "chains", how emotions transition from one stage to another.

Managing Emotions - the ability which allows you to manage emotions in your self and in others.

The original MEIS consisted of 12 separate sub-tests, or parts. After a series of analyses, we selected 7 sub-tests which work the best, those which have the best reliability and the best validity (see the MEIS manual for more information). These sub-tests are:

Identifying Emotions: Faces & Stories

Understanding Emotions: Blends & Progressions & Relativity

Managing Emotions: Others & Self

 

OTHER ATTEMPTS AT MEASURING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Goleman provided a fun quiz on emotional intelligence which is available from the Utne Reader web site. The purpose of this quiz is to promote discussion on the topic as it is not a validated test.

A psychologist, Reuven Bar-On, has developed a self-report measure of a number of personality traits which he believes make up emotional intelligence. The Bar-On EQi, or Emotional Quotient Inventory, is available to qualified professionals from the test publisher MHS ( www.MHS.com ).

There will be other tests of emotional intelligence. Many of them will probably be simple self-report measures of a grab-bag of personality traits that sound interesting and important. Other tests will combine self-report with other report. Consider the arguments listed above when evaluating these approaches.