CogniFit's Science blog: Does Measuring Emotional Intelligence Make Sense?

Does Measuring Emotional Intelligence Make Sense?

It has been an interesting debate in the scientific community the source and development of Emotional Intelligence. Some will argue that it is indeed an inborn characteristic; while others will defend it can be learned, worked and improved. Some will say it’s part of the cognition, some say it’s totally independent.

However one other area of debate has been how to measure, in concrete, Emotional Intelligence. Is there an IQ equivalent for emotions? This is surely a field of many different views and perceptions, as anything dealing with emotions will always be. 

Any measure will start be the definition of needs to be measured. In this field it is important first of all to separate the different views of what Emotional Intelligence is: The Ability Model (the individuals have different abilities to process emotional information); The Trait Model (each individual has personality traits which lead to emotional intelligence); or the Mixed Models (the emotional competences can be learned to develop each individual’s emotional intelligence). 

The measurement of the Ability Model seems to be the less supported one and has been widely criticized. This model tries to mimic the IQ test model by applying emotion-based problem-solving tests, thus measuring the several types of emotional abilities. However contrarily to the standard IQ tests, here there are no predefined correct answers. 

On the Trait Model there are several self-report measures, but very limited as to the type of measurement of trait emotional intelligence. The most standard trait model test is called Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue), which tries to identify items in each individual’s personality around four factors: well-being, self-control, emotionality and sociability. Interestingly and unlike the ability model measurement, the TEIQue scores have been proven unrelated to nonverbal reasoning (which indicates it is measuring personality rather than another type of intelligence). 

The Mixed Models, based on emotional competencies, are measured based on the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), which tries to measure the competence of social and emotional behaviors. However, the fact that this test is a self-report means that it is highly influenced by faking, thus reducing its credibility. 

Overall we can clearly say that the study and measurement of emotional intelligence is still in development. At the moment several very different ways to define and test it have been presented, and they are still too different to indicate any type of consensus. Similarly, several hypotheses for the measurement of the emotional intelligence have been proposed, but each of them has its flaws. 

The question remains, will it ever be possible to measure emotions and the emotional intelligence? Secondly, can brain training be developed to improve emotional intelligence? In an era like nowadays when controlling and influencing emotions takes increasing importance, this is a study area that surely will bring many developments over the coming years.