Many questions now arising about the MSCEIT were first studied empirically during the 1990’s. Here are a few questions that are often asked about measuring emotional intelligence and some quick answers. More details are provided below, and of course, these debates can also be followed in our publications on measuring emotional intelligence throughout the 1990’s and today.

What do you mean by the “ability model” of emotional intelligence?

To distinguish our model from others, we refer to it as an ability model of emotional intelligence. That is because it is centered on two things: The ability to reason with emotion, and the capacity of emotions to enhance thought.

Why is the ability model important scientifically?

The ability model of emotional intelligence defines a new psychological variable that is theoretically believed to be distinct from previously measured psychological qualities. There is now growing empirical evidence that tests specifically based on the theory measure something new.

What mental tasks measure emotional intelligence?

The abilities involved in emotional intelligence include “the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth ” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). These abilities are based both on an analysis of how intelligence operates and the sorts of knowledge structures and processes necessary to process emotional information.

I have heard there are some mental tasks on ability scales that do not seem to fit my picture of what should be there. How did that come about?

Most people find the MSCEIT has “face validity” — that is, overall and individually, the tasks appear to measure EI. Still, some people find the test also includes some less obvious tasks, like reading emotions in landscapes (“Pictures”), or drawing analogies from emotions to physical sensations (“Sensations”). Some people have wondered how those tasks got there. The quick answer is this. First, for reasons beyond the scope of this posting, procedures for psychological measurement generally encourage measuring an ability with more than one task; therefore, several different tasks were employed in measuring each area of emotional intelligence. Second, researchers experimented with many different kinds of tasks in an attempt to measure all four hypothesized areas. Factor analysis indicated that a number of tasks, such as “Pictures” and “Sensations” ended up performing very well, and are parallel to the more obvious tasks. Because they worked so well in measuring EI, these tasks were retained in the final test. Third, Pictures measures your ability to read emotions in an environment, to “read the room”, to determine whether an environment, logo, brand image conveys various emotions. Sensations works because if you can create the physical sensations of an emotion you are more likely to be able to emotionally connect with someone describing a powerful emotional situation.

How should it be scored?

What is the best criterion for a correct answer on an ability scale of EI? Mayer & Geher (1996) compared consensus and target scoring. Consensus criteria uses the modal group answer as the best answer. Target scoring uses the individual being evaluated (e.g., the person making a face) as the criterion. Briefly, it turned out that consensus outperformed target scoring. For one thing, most targets skew their emotions very positively, so as to appear socially desirable. Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey (1999) studied three criteria: Consensus, Target, and Expert criteria. Expert criteria uses emotions experts to set the correct answer. They found that Consensus and Expert scoring work best, followed by Target scoring. The new MSCEIT test can be scored either by consensus or by expert criterion. Most people get about the same score, no matter which way it is scored. Researchers are encouraged, however, to use both scoring methods and compare them. (My personal preference is to use Expert scoring — it just makes more sense on an ability measure.)

Are the tests reliable?

The MSCEIT reliabilities are reported here. It is a highly reliable test, comparable to other tests on the market. Task scores are less reliable and should be used cautiously.

Can you score high on the MSCEIT as well as on a standard intelligence test?

Sure you can. These intelligences are not the opposite of each other. In general, both forms of intelligence are modestly related to each other. Analytically smart people can be emotionally intelligent. It is also possible that a person can score low on a standard intelligence measure and still be emotionally intelligent.

Is the MSCEIT a tool for selection?

In theory, yes. Imagine being able to select people who were actually great at these skills, rather than people who just thought they were great.  However, it is my opinion that the research is still too thin to justify using the MSCEIT for such a purpose. In general, I am not a big fan of selection testing, so I don’t endorse the blanket use of any assessment for such an application. The use of a mixed model, self report EQ test is even less justified (in my personal opinion) given the options that are available (the use of standard, proven personality self-report measures such as the 16 PF and others).

Is the MSCEIT a good tool for researchers?

Researchers around the world are using the MSCEIT. If you are a researcher in a university setting and are conducting research on emotional intelligence, contact David for more information.

How do I obtain the MSCEIT?

Order the MSCEIT from EI Skills Group. HR and other professionals can have a client take the MSCEIT and receive feedback through us. Click HERE for information.

How Is the MSCEIT Scored?

The MSCEIT is scored in one of two ways. If you take the MSCEIT on-line, it is scored on-line. If you take the MSCEIT using an answer sheet, the sheet gets mailed to MHS where they scan and score it and return your data.


Can emotional intelligence be taught?

Emotional intelligence, as an intelligence, may be hard to change, but through experience we know that people can learn new emotional strategies and learn about emotions. The key is that we define and measure emotional intelligence as a set of abilities or skills. Skills can be taught! There is very little pre-test, post-test research on EI. A dissertation by Kelly Chang did find evidence that EI – measured as an ability via the MSCEIT – can be increased. This result was obtained after several months of attending a skills-training college class. A study at the University of Chicago demonstrated that a semester-long class on EI increased participants’ MSCEIT scores by about 1/3 of a SD.

What about motivation, social skills and creativity? Why don’t you measure these?

These traits are important, but they are not part of emotional intelligence! They may be related in some way to emotional intelligence, or emotional intelligence may facilitate them, but they are very different constructs. Standard personality tests such as the NEO or CPI do an excellent job of measuring these traits.

Is success only 20% due to IQ and 80% due to emotional intelligence?

While there are some who have claimed that IQ accounted for about 20% of the statistical variance in various measures of “success”, this does not mean that the other 80% was due to emotional intelligence. Unless, of course, you define emotional intelligence as everything except IQ.

Instead, emotional intelligence – defined and measured as an ability – will likely account for small, but important relationships in life. Although the variance accounted for will be much less than 80%, emotional intelligence abilities are unique and new. In fact, perhaps 1% to 5% of the variance will be due to emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence will provide a piece of the puzzle that was previously unavailable.

What about happiness? Doesn’t that play a role in emotional intelligence?

Being happy is a wonderful goal. But being emotionally intelligent may at times result in feeling unhappy. With greater emotional awareness and understanding often comes greater experience of pain. Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest, or most hedonistic choice to make. At the same time, we find that the MSCEIT does correlate with certain measures of life satisfaction.

Who invented EI?

Certainly the term came to popular attention due to a book written by the psychologist/author Daniel Goleman. But, as he notes in that book, he did not come up with the term. Some people claim that Mayer and Salovey coined the term in 1990, but Jack and Peter have found evidence for the use of the term prior to their publications on EI. As with all claims, don’t always accept them at face value.I can state, however, that the modern idea of an emotional intelligence, seems to me to be first stated by Jack and Peter in their 1990 articles.