Each of us has this special friend who seems to have more insight into their feelings, a better understanding of other people’s emotions, and an incredible knack for handling potentially emotionally volatile situations with a seemingly magical touch.
What makes this person so good at these situations? What is this ‘it’ that they’re good at, and can we measure what makes them so good?
One answer is that our friend has high ‘emotional intelligence,’ (e.g., Mayer & Salovey, 1993) (Sometimes mistakenly referred to as ‘social intelligence’.)
The topic of emotional intelligence has generated a great deal of interest, especially in the workplace and other highly social contexts. Some researchers have hypothesized that people high in emotional intelligence might perform better in these contexts, and their success isn’t only due to IQ (Boyatzis, 1982; Zeidner, Matthews, & Roberts, 2004).
Knowing that emotional intelligence might be advantageous, how can we measure it?
Emotional intelligence is a construct – an abstract concept defined by psychologists and researchers – and consequently, difficult to measure because it doesn’t exist in the physical world. It’s not as though we can pick up a block of emotional intelligence and measure it on a scale – instead, we need to devise questions that reliably tap into this concept.