How is EI measured?
Dr. Robert Tett, author of the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment (MEIA), is featured in a series of videos to explain emotional intelligence (EI).
EI can be assessed in a number of ways. A great way would be to have people face real or simulated situations that are emotionally charged and then just see how they react. Do they recognize their feelings, and can they describe them in words? Are their reactions appropriate in meeting the demands of a situation, or are they counterproductive? Do they react off-the-cuff? Do they show concern for others? How do they show that concern? And so forth. This would be ideal for measuring EI but setting up these sorts of situations is hard and can be very expensive.
Different Approaches to Measuring EI
We have two practical alternatives. First, we can look at EI as an ability and assess a person’s responses to emotionally relevant stimuli in terms of right and wrong answers. Second, we can ask people to describe themselves in terms of their emotional habits and tendencies. Do they tend to pay a lot of attention to their own feelings, or do they tend to ignore them? Do they typically pay much attention to how other people are feeling, or do they ignore them too? How well can they cheer someone up who’s feeling down? Do they tend to be optimistic about things or are they more realistic or pessimistic? And so on.
There are pros and cons to any kind of assessment. The ability approach that includes right and wrong answers is appealing because EI is, after all, a type of intelligence. A downside to the ability approach; however, is that EI is also a tendency or willingness. And assessing tendencies is not about right and wrong answers but rather preferences and inclinations. It’s the same with math. Assessing mathematical ability is fairly straightforward using right and wrong answers. But love of math is different; requiring a different approach to measurement.
As I noted earlier, EI is a hybrid of personality and ability so right and wrong answers can’t capture EI in its entirety. Self-report, on the other hand, can get at both aspects.
Challenges with Self-Report Measures
Two major issues with self-report surveys are self-deception and faking. People tend to see themselves more positively than they actually are, and separately from that, they can deliberately describe themselves more positively in order to make a good impression. People vary in how much they engage in each of those two biases when describing themselves. A trick in developing a good self-report survey, and whether it’s about EI or something else, is to minimize opportunity for self-deception and faking to occur. To the degree this is achieved, self-report arguably offers the best way to assess EI as a combination of personality and ability traits.
SIGMA has two EI assessments: the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment (MEIA) and the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment for Workplace (MEIA-W).