The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT)

There are various different tools and tests in the market for emotional intelligence assessment and development, and MSCEIT is one of those.  MSCEIT is an acronym and stands for the “Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test”.  This test stemmed from research first carried out in 1990 by Mayer & Salovey, and it was refined and developed over the ensuing years.

Some emotional intelligence tests focus on self-awareness and perceptions, or on identifying behaviour preferences.  The MSCEIT is a test which aims to focus on assessing emotional ability.

This implies that there is an underlying system of gauging the correctness of answers to the MSCEIT questions.  This is done by scoring answers against a generally expected response.  The MSCEIT can be scored against two different populations – general and expert.  In practice, these two test databases do not see a large difference between them so either can be used reliably for comparison purposes.

There are 141 questions in an MSCEIT test and the output is a score which measures “total emotional intelligence”, with separate scores for four different branches – (a) perceiving emotion accurately, (b) using emotion to facilitate cognitive activities, (c) understanding emotion, and (d) managing emotion.

Questions in the MSCEIT come in various forms.  For example, the responder may be asked to identify the main emotion felt by the person in a given picture, or he/she may be asked to choose an answer out of the options following a description of a hypothetical emotion-based scenario.  Such a question could be deciding what someone might do next to reduce sadness following a situation whereby he/she had experienced a great loss.

These responses are compared and scored against the best set of answers as defined by a large comparison database (this method is termed “general consensus”).  Scoring is performed by weighting the responder’s answer by the corresponding proportion of responses from the comparison population (e.g. if 20% of the sample population chose the same answer as the responder, the response is scored by multiplying it by a factor of 0.2).

Benefits and Drawbacks of the MSCEIT

The advantage of the MSCEIT is that there has been quite a bit of research done and the developers seek to ensure that the test is objective and fulfils criteria on repeatability, reliability and predictability.  There have been some papers in the research domain (and some by the developers themselves) which studies various aspects of the test, and further work is being carried out to enhance the MSCEIT offering.

Like all emotional intelligence development tests, the MSCEIT can be helpful when coupled with appropriate coaching and improvement processes for personal development.  The developers assert that care should be taken when interpreting MSCEIT results, as is the case with other emotional intelligence development tools.

Furthermore, some criticism exists for the way in which the MSCEIT seeks to measure emotional intelligence.  There are concerns as to whether a multiple-choice questioning format should make absolute judgments about the “correctness” of somebody’s response (and the appropriateness of comparing it to a “general” norm).  After all, the MSCEIT does not know why the responder chose a certain answer, and does not seek to explain the reasons for a particular response (unlike, for example, the E-Scale).

Extrapolating this further, the MSCEIT would have made assumptions about the responder’s value system and way of thinking/evaluating answers in order to score it.  Naturally, the MSCEIT may be less useful for weighing up individual differences in reasoning, or understanding a person’s underlying value systems.

In conclusion, the MSCEIT has specific uses for self-discovery, but it needs to be utilised as part of a specific personal development programme.

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