For many people emotional intelligence is a kind of a religion. From the heady days of Daniel Goleman telling us that emotional intelligence would revolutionise our understanding of human beings many people have pursued the path of emotional intelligence only to be disappointed with the ultimate outcomes. Emotional intelligence has typically been measured two ways:

  • With ability based tests. These test regard emotional intelligence as an ability like IQ, but they are typically scored with a strange consensus-based scoring structure, where you get high scores if your results are like those of other people. That doesn’t sound like a good way to score an ability test to me. In addition, having to answer questions where you look at a picture of a face and are asked to identify the emotions shown by that face has not been greeted with great credibility by applicants for jobs.
  • With self-report measures. These tests typically ask you questions such as, “I do not understand the emotions of people I interact with.” You are asked to answer these questions on a Likert scale between strongly agree and strongly disagree. If you use these questionnaires in job application situations you may well find that most people answer these questions “strongly agree” in order to give themselves the best possible chance of winning the job.

The biggest problems with these measures is that the best of them tend to correlate very heavily with established personality tests. Just last year we undertook a major study where we measured the emotional intelligence of in excess of 1000 people using an internationally validated emotional intelligence assessment tool. This instrument suggested that emotional intelligence is made up of three things:

  • The ability to understand other people’s emotions
  • The ability to be optimistic and self-regulate one’s emotions
  • A tendency to factor emotional information into the making of decisions.

We also measured the personalities of these people using the HEXACO personality inventory. We identified that the first two characteristics of emotional intelligence mentioned above could be explained over 50% by the HEXACO. So much so that we developed a mathematical model to give emotional intelligence scores based on the HEXACO personality inventory in our online psychological measurement business. This means that emotional intelligence can be measured as a by-product of personality rather than needing to use a separate, independent test. Whenever you can measure over 50% of something with an existing tool in science we would consider them to be pretty much the same thing.

There is a purpose in measuring these emotional intelligence characteristics, because they can identify potential success in people orientated roles such as leadership, customer service, or care related roles such as counselling. Now there is a simple way of measuring these characteristics without having to use easily fake-able self-reports or questionable ability based measures.

Andrew Marty
Managing Director
SACS Consulting


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Andrew Marty