Measuring Emotional Intelligence

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

There are at least three distinct approaches to measuring EI and emotional and social competence representing different models.

The first, delineated by Reuven Bar-On, was influenced by his interest in the aspects of performance not linked to intelligence; the second, often tied to Daniel Goleman’s interpretation, approached EI through competencies; and the third, represented by Mayer and Salovey and colleagues, was influenced by their interest in the relationship between cognition and emotion.

These three approaches have led to diverse and non-overlapping measures of EI characterized as: 1) Personality oriented (e.g, Bar-On Emotion Quotient Inventory); 2) Competency or “Mixed” model oriented (e.g., Emotional Intelligence View 360); and 3) Ability or skill oriented (e.g., Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test; MSCEIT).

Issues with Ability Based Measures of Emotional Intelligence

  • Independece from personality measures (e.g., five factor models)
  • Weak convergent validity with other cognitive ability measures (i.e., they don’t highly correlate with IQ)
  • Scoring issues (i.e., lack of agreement and some controversy on how these assessments are scored)
  • Confounded with a measure of knowledge (i.e., they seem to be measuring what someone “knows” as well as emotional intelligence)

Problems wiht Self-Report (Mixed) Measures of Emotional Intelligence

  • High correlations with five factor personality measures (i.e., the overlap is so high it suggests that some measures of EI are really nothing more than another personality inventory)
  • Limitations of 360-feedback (e.g., inflated self-ratings, moderate correlations between and within rater groups)
  • Limitations of self-report (how do you measure EI in people who lack emotional intelligence?)
  • Tend to ignore context, situation and setting (EI is not a useful predictor of performance in jobs that don’t have high emotional labor or are socially demanding)

Our own “mixed measure” of ESC called Emotional Intelligence View 360 based on the Goleman construct has some strengths and limitations as all measures. Our EIV360 appears to be statistically unique from ability based measures (very low correlations with the MSCEIT), correlated with the most popular measures of transformational leadership and predictive of both academic and work performance.

In a review by Joseph and Newman (2010), they found a negative association between measures of EI and work performance when jobs do not require strong social skills. Although the sample sizes for this analysis were rather low (N = 220 and N =223, respectively) it does suggest that EI is important for positions like sales, customer service and leadership and less important in predicting performance and success when high levels of interpersonal interaction are required ((Joseph, D. & Newman, D. (2010). Emotional intelligence: An integrative meta-analysis and cascading model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 54-78)).

A newer 2010 meta-analysis by O’Boyle et al. included 65% more studies and twice the sample size to estimate EI and job performance outcomes ((O’Boyle, E., Humphrey, R., Pollack, Hawver, T. & Story, P. (2010). The relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 10.1002/job.714)).

Their findings extent those of Newman (2010) and suggest that trait, personality and mixed measures demonstrated corrected correlations ranging from 0.24 to 0.30 with job performance. Their research also shows that all measures show incremental validity over cognitive ability and personality measures.

Measurement of emotional intelligence (ability based) is most likely different from other approaches (personality and mixed) but all techniques tend to significantly predict job performance, health and social competence particularly in roles and positions requiring high interpersonal interaction. So, depending on your purpose (e.g., selection versus development of talent) some approaches to measuring EI might be better than others.

The one big lesson from the confusion in the measurement of emotional intelligence is that “it’s not HOW smart you are that counts, but how you are smart…Be well….


Succesful in Your New Year’s Resolutions?

Kenenth Nowack, Ph.D.


Did you make a New Year’s resolution?

Nearly four out of 10 adults will make one or more resolutions for the new year, according to a study done by the University of Scranton (Norcross, J., Mrykalo, S., & Blagys, M. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 397-405).

  • After the first week of carrying out the goal, about 75 percent of people maintain their goal.
  • After week two, nearly 70 percent of people will maintain their goal.
  • After one month, about 64 percent will stick with their resolution.
  • After six months, about 46 percent of people are still on track with their goal.

Rehab is for Quitters

Old habits are indeed very tough to break and relapse seems greatest when we are under stress. Starting new behaviors is indeed more challenging than sustaining them over time. Quitting is indeed something that some of us are pretty consistent in doing well.

According to new research, quitting may actually be better for your health. Psychologist’s Gregory Miller and Carsten Wroshch have found that people who are able to feel comfortable quitting when faced with unattainable goals may actually have better mental and physical health than those who persevere and push themselves to succeed (Miller, G. & Wrosch, C. (2007). You’ve Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em: Goal Disengagement and Systemic Inflammation in Adolescence. Psychological Science, 18).

This study was based on their previous research which found that those persistent individuals experienced higher levels of an inflammatory protein called C-reactive protein (an indicator of stress) as well as increased cortisol. They also reported lower psychological well-being. On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal but inflammation appears to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other stress related conditions.

Contrary to what we might have been taught, it appears that it might be in our best interests to “cut our losses” in the face of unattainable goals and life challenges and actually disengage from the goal to ensure optimum well-being and potentially long-term health. This appears to be true whether we are in unsatisfying long-term relationships, working for leaders who are toxic or targeting a goal that is beyond our skill and ability “set points.”

So, any good things for those who persist? In other research Carsten and colleagues found that in the face of life challenge and disengaging from unattainable goals, those who redefined and set new goals were more likely to be able to buffer the negative emotions associated with failure. Maybe “rebound” relationships and new entrepreneurial goals might actually serve to help us find closure to the past and re-engage us for future journeys (Wrosch, C., Miller, G. E., Scheier, M. F., & Brun de Pontet, S. (2007). Giving up on unattainable goals: Benefits for health? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 251-265).

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  1. Enlighten
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Have a look at our book and free exercises to see what might be useful for some of your challenging (and easy) coaching assignments….Be well…..