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Dr. Robert Tett, author of the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment (MEIA), is featured in a series of videos to explain emotional intelligence (EI).
When I was starting out as an academic, I had a colleague back at University of Central Florida in the mid-1990s. His name is Alvin Wong. And he came in one day and said, why don’t we develop an EI measure. I thought okay it’s a hot topic, at the time, and still is; and there are some interesting research questions there. I had a background in developing self-report surveys so I said why not.
First thing we needed to do was figure out what EI is, what it includes, and what it excludes. Well, there is a book chapter by Peter Salovey and John Mayer published in 1990 that was pretty much exactly what we were looking for. It provided an academic description of various aspects of EI. There were 10 parts, and they were organized in a way that made sense. Other researchers had used Salovey and Mayer’s model to develop self-report measures. The MEIA is unique among all of those sorts of measures by targeting all 10 original parts of the model.
Salovey and Mayer have since gone with EI as an ability. But the original model includes empathy and intuition which are clearly more like personality traits than ability. So we relied on self-report to measure both aspects. We were careful in developing the MEIA to minimize susceptibility to biases. We know that’s a problem with self-report. Plus we built in a few other helpful features making the MEIA a uniquely qualified self-report measure of EI.
An important feature of the MEIA that sets it apart from all the other self-report measures of EI out there is that it assesses all 10 of the EI facets in the original Salovey and Mayer model. Now we know that EI is multidimensional, and the MEIA’s 10 subscales get at all of those parts. It provides a uniquely diagnostic profile of EI strengths and limitations for anyone who completes it. Other EI measures tend to rely on an overall score-an overall average. Now the MEIA can provide an average score but we encourage treating the 10 subscales separately because they are far more informative, more diagnostic. Averaging everything together creates a hodgepodge. Two people could get exactly the same overall score, yet have very different EI profiles.
Keeping the subscales separate facilitates personal growth because it’s the only way to see which areas are fine and which areas need work. Plus at a work-group level, we can better understand how EI plays out and its effects on worker and team productivity. Is performance due more to regulating other persons emotions? Or to regulating ones own? Is lack of empathy a problem for this team? Do the members need to express their emotions more openly or less? You can’t answer such questions using an overall average score.
Other self-report measures of EI offer multiple subscales. Some offer fewer than 10; others offer more. Those with fewer, typically have around 4 which limits diagnostic feedback. Those with more have scales that are not obviously related to EI. For example, they might have a scale called problem solving, or self-esteem, or self-motivation. Such traits may be related to EI but it’s not clear that they are part of EI. At least not according to Salovey and Mayer’s original framework. The MEIA is the only self-report scale targeting all 10 of the original EI components.
The ‘M’ in MEIA stands for multidimensional. The full name is the Multidimensional Emotional Intelligence Assessment. And the fact that we put that in the title reflects how strongly committed we are to understanding EI as a set of distinct traits and competencies.
One of the most important features of the MEIA is the careful way it was developed. For one thing, we made sure every statement is clearly representative of just one of the 10 facets. This might seem like an obvious thing to do. But most scale developers write statements without checking to see if they might actually get other aspects better than the one they were written for.
We had experts individually categorize every statement by EI facet. And we dropped any that the experts couldn’t agree on. We further tested whether statements were where they belong through sophisticated statistical analysis. A critical result of these analyses is that every statement on the MEIA belongs exactly where it is meant to go. This makes scale scores easier to interpret and gives us some assurances that the scales actually measure what we say they do.
We also avoided statements that were overly desirable or undesirable in order to minimize problems with self-report biases. We further relied on statistical analysis to identify and drop statements that were problematic in that sense. Other EI scales have been developed without considering susceptibility to biases. The MEIA is unique in this respect.
I’ll mention one last feature of the MEIA that makes it especially relevant to the workplace. Specifically, there’s a workplace version called the MEIA-W in which all the statements are directed to the work setting. Research has shown that contextualized measures like the MEIA-W capture workplace skills and tendencies better than more general versions do. There is also a general version of the MEIA for the general population.
Of all the self-report measures of EI available, the MEIA is arguably the most robust and rigorously developed self-report measure available.