Monday, March 06, 2006

Emotional intelligence (EQ) - a valid construct?

Emotional IQ (EQ). To say the least, this construct enjoys considerable popularity in the popular press. But.....from a psychometric EQ real?.......does it represent a valid domain of human abilities? Curious minds want to know.

As I've noted on a number of occassions, I find Current Directions in Psychological Science a must read for scholars looking for a brief, contemporary “taking stock” summary of a specific area of psychological research. That being said, in one of the most recent issues, Salovey and Grewal (2005; click here to read/view aricle) suggest that the accumulating evidence positively supports the notion of EQ, particulary the the four-branch model of Mayer and Salovey [Blogmaster note.....reader beware. This review article is coauthered by one of the individuls who has articulated the four-branch model that serves as the basis for the review].

So...if you want the positive spin on EQ, this is a good review.

I myself, being of strong psychometric heritage, particulary of the midwest "dust-bowl empiricism" variety, have formed a somewhat less optimistic conclusion re: the validity of this construct, primary from my readings of other quantoids of similar persuasion. Thus, to provide some balance to the Salovey and Grewal (2005) review, below are select comments from a review article published by Stankov (2000). This, in turn, is followed by an interesting study by Zeidner, Shani-Zinovicha, Matthews Roberts, R. (2006) that was recently published in the journal Intelligence (click here to read/view). [Blogmaster note - it may be important to note that the fourth author on this paper, Richard Roberts, is a long-time colleague and associate of Stankov. The blogmaster considers Stankov and Roberts to be top-notch psychometrically-oriented researchers.]

Readers who are trying to evaluate both sides of the EQ coin should balance the positive review of Salovey and Grewal with a reading of the less optimistic perspectives of Stankov (2000) and Zeidner et al. I recommend reading the introductory literature review in the Zeidner et al. paper for a nice synopsis of the perceived state-of-the-art of the empirical EQ research.

If someone wants to dig deeper into the literature, click here for a search I just completed in the IAP Reference database --- using the keyword "emotional intelligence." There clearly is a large body of contemporary research on the topic of EQ...much more than can be summarized on this humble blog.

Select comments from Stankov, L. (2000), Structural extensions of a hierarchical view on human cognitive abilities. Learning and Individual Differences, 12(1), 35-51.

  • "There is currently considerable popular interest in the construct of emotional intelligence. This is particularly pronounced within the business community and to some extent within the educational sphere. Much of this interest is built on a nonscientific and premature acceptance. emotional intelligence is a catchy, but quite inappropriate label. Since much of the writing on this topic also ignores significant previous work on emotionality carried out within the domain of personality, it is hard to shrug off the conclusion that scientific respectability is the goal yet to be attained by this area of psychology."
  • "However, it is still unclear whether these new measures define factors that ate distinct from the primary abilities of Gc and, indeed, from well-established personality traits."
  • "Although much research in Emotional intelligence is without substance, it is possible that existing enthusiasm will lead to some useful outcomes in the measurement of emotionality in the future. However, in the absence of a demonstration that whatever is measured by the alleged tests of emotionality is indeed akin to intelligence, it would be more appropriate to talk about "emotional awareness," "emotional competence" or "emotion perception" rather than "emotional intelligence" in the future. The removal of "intelligence" from the title is likely to lead to a dissipation of much of the current enthusiasm. In reality, this may benefit serious workers in the field."
Select comments from Zeidner et al. (2005)

  • "Thus far, we have assumed that the MSCEIT does indeed assess genuine abilities (Mayer et al., 2000). However, as we have discussed elsewhere at length (Matthews et al., 2002), it is unclear exactly what is measured by tests of this kind, and despite good agreement of different scoring methods in a recent study (Mayer et al., 2003), doubts remain about whether scoring is veridical (Roberts et al., 2001). One possibility is that the MSCEIT assesses general declarative knowledge about emotions, of the kind that might be obtained from a school or university psychology course, such as hopelessness being a cause of depression: i.e., explicit, rather than implicit, knowledge. If so, the present results may reflect gifted children’s overall advantage in general knowledge, rather than any special facility in understanding and managing emotion. Academic knowledge of the causes of depression, for example, does not necessarily translate into procedural skills for alleviating depression in self and others. Future research might usefully investigate the extent to which gifted children are able to benefit from whatever capabilities are assessed by the MSCEIT in academic and interpersonal settings."
  • "Another possibility (Matthews et al., 2002), linked to the use of consensus scoring, is that the MEIS and MSCEIT assess a kind of cultural conformity, i.e., holding beliefs about emotion that are congruent with cultural norms. Such "goodness of fit" might well be adaptive, but it does not represent a personal ability or aptitude."

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Anonymous said...

I wonder whether these studies control for asperger's and other autistic spectrum conditions.

Anonymous said...

Like many ideas in psych we're not sure what we mean by EI (or intelligence, learning disability....etc.)

And read a good psychometric study here:

Journal of Managerial Psychology, 2000, Vol 15(4), 341-372.

"They provide support for the proposition that the combination of EQ and IQ is a more powerful predictor of 'success' than either measure alone."

A great summary from objective researchers:

Finally, Mayer, Caruso, and Caruso consider this their most recent opus. Get it from the horses' mouths.

Make sure to leave an afternoon to read it all. ;)