Criticism of Emotional Intelligence Measures of Assessment
One of the primary criticisms of the theoretical foundation of EQ is the assumption made within certain models of EQ that Emotional Intelligence is a form of true intelligence. Intelligence has been defined in a variety of ways within different fields and typically includes concepts such as logic, understanding, abstract thought, self awareness, ability to learn, problem solving, communication, and so on. Within the field of psychology, there are different approaches to human intelligence, the most famous of which is psychometrics.
Psychometrics is the measure of certain cognitive abilities and includes IQ, as well as some scholastic measurements. Some psychologists also recognize a general intelligence factor. While most IQ tests will measure certain cognitive functions, such as pattern recognition and natural language skills, Emotional Intelligence typically measures other cognitive processes, such as memory, rapid decision-making, and ability to retrieve general knowledge.
Both of these concepts relate closely with the idea of Emotional Intelligence, and some psychologists argue that Emotional Intelligence quotients are merely aspects of general intelligence. Defining intelligence is controversial and certainly leads to some of the challenges with getting EQ recognized as a form of legitimate intelligence.
Some criticize Emotional Intelligence as a form of true intelligence, given that it remains essentially impossible for psychologists to define what incorporates intelligence itself. This hotly contested issue is often considered one of semantics that may play an important role in developing the psychological theories of Emotional Intelligence, but may not be particularly relevant to many of the people who utilize concepts of EQ in a practical arena.

Why does it matter? As just mentioned, it may not matter at all to people who are attempting to utilize the concepts of EQ to better themselves or others. Within the field of psychology, it does matter, primarily because prior to the development of Emotional Intelligence theories, the general psychological world had defined and established theoretical distinctions between certain abilities, skills, habits, attitudes, personality traits, and emotional states. As EI theories have been developed, it has resulted in some dissent within the field, as it combines many of these qualities into this concept of EI, removing them from being distinctly different constructs.

Another of the more popular criticisms of Emotional Intelligence is whether or not it has the ability to generate any accurate predictions regarding an individual's success, although most models claim they do have varying predictive value. Some of the research that seems to support some predictive value within Emotional Intelligence may make accurate predictions, according to these critics, but they may be predicting things not based on a genuine idea of Emotional Intelligence, so much as on personality characteristics that could have been predicted using a personality assessment, rather then being a genuinely unique to the EQ concept.

When it comes to criticisms regarding the measurement of EQ, it is easy to see why the majority of EQ measurement assessments are heavily criticized for reasons already discussed. Most specifically, the arguments typically involve heavy criticism of the use of self report that many of the EI models rely upon. But the self reports are not the only cause for concern, according to those offering critiques about EI measurement methods.

One of the more obvious criticisms is that some of the models -- particularly the Ability Model -- does not measure ability, but rather measures conformity. Because the measures of the Ability Model require a comparison be made between an individual and others who have taken the assessment on a global scale, using common patterns of social skills, some critics argue that this is a measure of conformity far more than actual ability on an individual basis. The Ability Model is heavily criticized for other reasons, as well; it is accused of measuring knowledge more so than ability (again, thus making the Ability Model not a form of true intelligence). The Trait Model, and some other models, are also criticized as measuring personality characteristics and general intelligence, rather then a distinct Emotional Intelligence. There are some critiques that identify the use of Emotional Intelligence, when serving the express needs of a business or corporation, to sometimes disregard any potential stresses or psychological disturbances due to EI assessments, and training that does not also address an individual's general psychological state or the use of Emotional Intelligence techniques in other areas of life.

Of course, the main criticism of measurement of Emotional Intelligence always returns to the issue of self report. Although there are models of EI that do not rely solely on self report, many of them do, making it particularly challenging to verify the results according to psychological standards. While acknowledging that there are certainly studies where self report is the only possible method of measurement, it is nevertheless ideal for other forms of measurement to be used whenever possible. Self reports are typically looked down upon for a number of reasons. First, it may simply reflect the individual's interpretation of the question and (when applicable) potential answers. A sound assessment should be composed of clear and unambiguous questions and answers that have been fully vetted before use. Nevertheless, when an individual is performing a self assessment, they may easily interpret a question or answer differently than it was meant even under the best circumstances. Thus, false data is produced.

A second very common concern with self reporting is when people lie. The fact is that people often want to make themselves appear to be as successful or capable as possible. Particularly if an assessment is being conducted by an individual's place of work, or a contractor is brought in who will be sharing results with the employer, the subject will obviously want to appear as capable as possible -- sometimes resulting in an inauthentic assessment. Of course, false reports can be given a in a self report by individuals who do not mean to lie, but who simply perceive themselves in a way that may not provide an accurate reflection of their Emotional Intelligence. People tend to want to believe they are capable and successful in a number of ways that may not be accurate. These individuals will have inaccurate assessments, though they never meant to answer disingenuously.

Emotional Intelligence, Personality Disorders, and Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Thus far, we have identified the various models of Emotional Intelligence, how it interacts with personality characteristics, and common criticisms of EQ. But the reality is that an astonishing number of people fall into these groups and an EQ assessment may produce radically different results that may not accurately reflect their Emotional Intelligence, as a whole.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Emotional Intelligence course?

For individuals with major psychological conditions, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and so on, the results of their assessment may vary considerably based upon the severity of their condition, their use (or lack) of medication, and participation (or lack thereof) in counseling or therapy. Nevertheless, these conditions, while affecting the thoughts and behaviors of these individuals, will not be discussed in depth within this section as properly medicated individuals with a psychological disorder are typically able to moderate themselves and provide a fairly accurate EQ assessment. Individuals with personality disorders, or those on the autism spectrum, can actually provide a greater challenge in establishing their EQ.

There are numerous personality disorders that may affect anyone on the receiving end of an EQ assessment. Because personality disorders are not typically as well known by the general public as many of the major psychological disorders, many employers would be surprised to find how many of their employees have psychological disorders. This is the same for those on the autism spectrum, as well. While recognizing autism in children has become better understood by the general public in recent years, how autism presents itself in adults remains a mystery to most of the general public. In fact, there are many individuals on the autism spectrum, especially those with Asperger's Syndrome (a high functioning form of autism), who may be unaware themselves that they are on the autism spectrum, as autism was not nearly as well known or tested for during the childhood of many of today's adult workers.

Just as we have already explored how integral a role personality plays in Emotional Intelligence, it should come as no surprise to find that personality disorders can dramatically alter a person's Emotional Intelligence in a number of ways. First, it is necessary to understand what constitutes a personality disorder and how accurate or inaccurate some of the things you anticipate about personality disorders may be, especially when it comes to Emotional Intelligence.

"Personality disorders" refers to a group of mental disorders that are characterized by generally accepted standards of unproductive or maladaptive behaviors, inner experiences, and cognition that are exhibited in a number of contexts. Personality disorders typically reflect behaviors and thought processes that are substantially different from those accepted by an individual's culture. Personality disorders typically show these alterations from accepted norms of behavior early in an individual's life and are, relatively speaking, inflexible.
Some personality disorders can be successfully managed, but they are often considered indicative of emotional distress and can often be debilitating. While personality disorders are not the same as major psychiatric disorders, many of them are co-morbid, frequently occurring within the same individual. An estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of psychiatric patients are diagnosed with a personality disorder, which makes it the most frequent of all psychiatric diagnoses.
Many individuals exhibit some signs of a personality disorder, but in order to meet diagnostic criteria, the patterns of behavior and/or thought must be substantial enough that they cause considerable disruption in personal, social, or occupational functioning. Moreover, the thought patterns and behaviors will be consistent throughout many different scenarios, whereas a person without a personality disorder, but who demonstrates some characteristics of a personality disorder, are often able to mitigate their behaviors -- or they may only show certain behaviors under particular circumstances.

There are three clusters of personality disorders, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association; there are also a few other instances of a personality disorder that do not fall in one of these clusters.

  • Cluster A. This cluster is composed of personality disorders that are primarily odd or eccentric in nature, including paranoid personality disorder (one of the more commonly known disorders, wherein the individual displays patterns of irrational suspicion and mistrust of others, often assuming that others are out to get them or hurt them). There is also schizoid personality disorder, which is characterized by restricted emotional expression and a lack of interest in social relationships, as well as schizotypal personality disorder, which demonstrates a pattern of extreme discomfort with interacting socially, including distorted cognition and perceptions.
  • Cluster B. This cluster is composed of erratic, emotional, and dramatic disorders. Within this cluster, there are four personality disorders recognized: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder is a pattern of disregard for the rights of others; most people with antisocial personality disorder lack the capacity for empathy. Those with borderline personality disorder struggle with instability in relationships, self image, and identity which often leads to impulsive acts as well as self harm; a key feature of an individual with borderline personality disorder is an inability to properly control their emotions. Histrionic personality disorder demonstrates a pervasive pattern of excessive emotions and attention-seeking behaviors. An individual with narcissistic personality disorder is likely to demonstrate patterns of grandiosity, a lack of empathy, and a deep-seated need for admiration and attention.
  • Cluster C. The cluster C group consists of the anxious or fearful disorders, such as avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (another one of the more commonly known disorders). Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by severe feelings of social inhibition and inadequacy, as well as extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation or criticism. In avoidant personality disorder, we can recognize how common it is to feel some characteristics of these disorders; many of us feel sensitive to criticism and have some level of social discomfort, but most of us are still able to function and go about our daily lives, including job reviews and uncomfortable social outings. Someone genuinely struggling with avoidant personality disorder is likely to structure their entire lives around avoiding those exact situations which, for the rest of us, merely occur at varying levels of discomfort. Dependent personality disorder describes a pervasive need to be cared for by others. Lastly, obsessive-compulsive personality disorders are characterized by an obsessive need to conform to particular rules and to exercise control, even over things where it is irrational to expect to have control.

These are the top specific personality disorders recognized by the American Psychological Association. There is also generalized personality disorder, and it is possible for some personality disorders to develop resulting directly from the effects of a medical condition that alters one's cognition.

When it comes to the autism spectrum, many people are only familiar with classical autism and have limited knowledge of other conditions within the autism spectrum. Moreover, many people make the mistake believing there is only one "type" of autism, meaning that frequently people assume that all autistic individuals have roughly the same capabilities and characteristics. Anyone who has known more than one person with classic autism, or is on the autism spectrum, knows that is not the case. The three most commonly accepted conditions on the autism spectrum include classic autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and PDD-NOS.

Classical autism is typically characterized by delays or abnormal functioning, which is often displayed around the age of three or four. The delay or abnormal functioning may be in the domain of social interaction, often demonstrates repetitive actions and challenges with social interaction, and may have cognitive delays ranging from slight to disabling.

Those with Asperger's syndrome, however, typically do not suffer from cognitive delays -- or they may have only mild cognitive delays; and deviance from common social interactions and behaviors usually is not displayed in early language development, such as it is in classic autism. Many individuals, particularly adults, with Asperger's syndrome may not be aware of it and can often be mistaken for merely being odd or weird.

PDD-NOS is considered to be an atypical form of autism and is sometimes mistaken for Asperger's syndrome, as both are typically higher functioning than classic autism. In PDD-NOS, symptoms may be very mild, or may only present in one domain, such as difficulty with social interaction. Most typically, people with this diagnosis may demonstrate pervasive patterns of social difficulties, such as a lack of reciprocal social interaction or stereotyped behaviors; some of these characteristics are similar to some personality disorders, but within an individual may not meet the criteria for a specific developmental or psychological disorder.

Given what you now know about personality disorders and the autism spectrum, it should be evident that these variables between one individual and the next may dramatically affect results of an Emotional Intelligence test. Those on the autism spectrum are literally wired differently in their brains; some personality disorders may be, as well. Moreover, many individuals on the spectrum, or who may have a personality disorder, operate cognitively in a relatively typical fashion when it comes to certain types of work. Many of them can learn various coping mechanisms that optimize their capabilities and minimize their personal challenges and are consequently able to sustain long-term work and personal relationships.

Nevertheless, an EQ test is unlikely to measure the exact same qualities in an individual with these differences, as compared with those who are neurotypical and without any psychological or psychiatric conditions. These results would obviously be tremendously skewed, even though it may not affect the aspects of their lives for which they are undergoing an EQ test. Moreover, even if a test were to demonstrate an accurate reflection of an individual's EQ (after all, for example, those on the autism spectrum are lacking in social skills as part of their actual diagnosis), its usefulness would still be highly suspect. Training an individual on the autism spectrum to increase their EQ is likely to be wasted effort, as their brains simply work differently than those who are neurotypical. While the individual may be able to alter their own abilities and develop coping skills to some degree, it typically requires specific training and expertise to do so.

When an individual seems to do adequately well at their job, but are undergoing testing for EQ, it's imperative for anyone interpreting the results to bear in mind these cognitive and personality differences. Although many of these people may not show positive or comparable results, it is unfair -- and more importantly, inaccurate -- to hold them to a totally different standard, and it's critical to understand that many individuals with personality disorders, and many on the autism spectrum, are unaware they have these differences. While skills related to EQ are certainly valuable and purposeful, a lack of certain EQ skills does not mean that a person is incapable or incompetent to perform their job; it may simply mean they are operating on a different basis than others.