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Measuring Emotional Intelligence

Key Topics

Why Measure Emotional Intelligence?

Some people ask whether emotional intelligence should be measured at all. Often, people who take this position equate emotional intelligence with maintaining a sense of sensitivity and respect toward humanity. The idea of assigning a number to a person's quality, and particularly an emotion-related quality such as emotional intelligence seems highly problematic.

For example, Keith Beasley, Director of Pintados Healing,* discusses the issue of measuring people on his web site. There, he distinguishes between measuring objects and measuring people. He argues:

When it come to actual things . . . like buying food or measuring distance then feet or meters have a use. In engineering and  technology too there is perhaps a need for fixed units and agreed ways of measuring an array of factors. But humans!? I find the idea that I can be classified like a nut or a bolt and measured like a Volt or Amp offensive. We are all unique human beings. To measure or categorise us is to consider us as any other commodity . . . and pretty much all administrations and marketing folks do that too much already anyway . .  don't they? It's bad enough for our banks, governments and supermarkets to treat us as just another number or category of customer without psychologists getting in on the act!

For the full essay, click here.

The counter-argument to this begins with the idea that self knowledge is a core human value. The importance of self-knowledge has been recognized by both Western and Eastern philosophers since antiquity.

One contemporary contribution to self-understanding that arises from psychological research is that it is very difficult for people to understand themselves without some kind of independent feedback.

Psychological tests are among the most impartial, accurate, and efficient means for discovering a person's attributes. Certainly, they can be used in an insensitive way -- used, for example, to treat people as a number. It is also true, however, that, they can be used with respect for the individual, and as an aid to self understanding and self-discovery.

If you accept learning and scientific progress as another core value, there are still more reasons to use psychological tests. Psychological science cannot proceed without good measures of parts of personality. Those measures of personality's parts allow scientists to understand what influences personality, and how personality in turn exerts an influence on an individual's life.

*Keith Beasley also published a 1988 article that used 'EQ' to refer to an emotional quotient -- the earliest such documented use I have seen. (Note that EQ refers to an emotion quotient. EIQ refers to an emotional intelligence quotient; these are different ideas!) -- JM