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Goleman's 1995 "EQ test" written for Utne Magazine



The questions, my findings and original comments

Goleman's 1995 article which went with the test

New (Feb 2006) comments

Goleman's Lack of feelings

Better answers

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In 1999 I wrote:

"Because many people are still interested in the 1995 Utne Reader magazine "EQ test," I decided to take the test apart, so to speak, to see how it works. (I have always enjoyed taking things apart since I was a kid and used to unscrew everything, earning me the label of "Screwy Lewy.") The results, as I interpret them, not only give an insight into the beliefs and personal bias of Daniel Goleman, the test author, but they also reveal the weakness of the test instrument. (Goleman later admitted the test was never intended to be taken seriously.)

Now I am taking another look at the test. Goleman asked Utne to take the test off their site, which they did. Luckily I found a back up copy of it on another site. Before I just had a link to the Utne site. Now I have the questions, the scoring, and my comments presented in an easier to read format.

S. Hein
Feb 2006


I started out by selecting answer "a" for all 10 questions. My score was 60. Then I changed one answer at a time and recalculated the scores to determine the "correct" and "incorrect" answers. Later I saw that I didn't need to go to all that trouble-- the correct and incorrect answers were further down in the site! But still, it was fun to figure it out for myself, and by not seeing the answers, I was able to do my own thinking about them.

The Questions, My Findings and Comments

Here are the original questions, my findings about how Goleman scored the answers and my 1999 comments.

1. You’re on an airplane that suddenly hits extremely bad turbulence and begins rocking from side to side. What do you do?

a. continue to read your book or magazine, or watch the movie, paying little attention to the turbulence.
b. become vigilant for an emergency, carefully monitoring the flight attendants and reading the emergency instructions card.
c. a little of both a and b.
d. not sure; never noticed.

Scoring Comments
Goleman gives you 20 points for answer a,b or c

You get no points for answer d

This seems odd - that there can be three equally correct answers. I was so surprised at these results I had to repeat them several times to be sure this is how he scored them!
2. You’ve taken a group of 4-year-olds to the park, and one of them starts crying because the others won’t play with her. What do you do?

a. stay out of it; let the kids deal with it on their own.
b. talk to him and help him figure out ways to get the other kids to play with him.
c. tell him in a kind voice not to cry.
d. try to distract the crying boy by showing him some other things he could play with.

Scoring Comments
You get 20 points for b

No points for a, c or d

Now it is just the opposite. There are three equally incorrect answers! I'd guess that a more intelligent, more valid test of EI would reflect that some answers are relatively better and worse, rather than simply being "correct" or "incorrect."
3. Assume you had hoped to get an A in one of your courses, but you have just found out you got a C– on the midterm. What do you do?

a. sketch out a specific plan for ways to improve your grade and resolve to follow through on your plans.
b. resolve to do better in the future.
c. tell yourself it really doesn’t matter much how you do in that particular course, and concentrate instead on other classes where your grades are higher.
d. go to the professor and try to talk her into giving you a better grade.

Scoring Comments
20 points for a

0 for b,c,d

No points for resolving to do better? No points for talking to the professors? No points for not worrying about it and focussing on positives? I'd say there is some value in all of these! In fact, it helped me several times to talk to the professors!
4. Imagine you are an insurance salesman calling prospective clients. Fifteen people in a row have hung up on you, and you are getting discouraged. What do you do?

a. call it a day and hope you have better luck tomorrow.
b. assess qualities in yourself that may be undermining your ability to make a sale.
c. try something new on the next call, and keep plugging away.
d. consider another line of work.

Scoring Comments
I didn't score this in 1999 but I remember that Goleman gave no points for d. I need to check the web site where I found the copy of the test to see if they also have scoring. I didn't comment on this one in 1999, but it did inspire me to think about Goleman's concept of EI. He seems to believe that an emotionally intelligent insurance salesman will stay motivated to talk people into buying from him, even if his conscience tells him that the people don't need the insurance or the insurance is not good for them financially. Also the person might feel bad for bothering the people he is calling and know that he is really just trying to use them for his own personal gain. Yet Goleman seems to indirectly advocate that the salesman ignore his inner feelings and focus on making money. This is one of the many things I don't like about Goleman and his concept of EI.
5. You are a manager in an organization that is trying to encourage respect for racial and ethnic diversity. You overhear someone telling a racist joke. What do you do?

a. ignore it—it’s only a joke.
b. call the person into your office for a reprimand.
c. speak up on the spot, saying that such jokes are inappropriate and will not be tolerated in your organization.
d. suggest to the person telling the joke he go through a diversity training program.

Scoring Comments
20 for c

0 for a, b, d

In this question and answer Goleman shows his own personal bias by saying the only correct thing to do is: "Speak up on the spot, saying that such jokes are inappropriate and will not be tolerated in your organization."

I am not sure how Goleman would justify this answer as being a sign of high EQ. This is clearly his personal belief. I first noticed his strong personal bias against anything he believes is "racist" or "racial intolerance" in his 1995 book when he attacked, by name, a US corporation for it's allegedly racist management practices.

Another way Goleman reveals more about himself is by his use of the word "inappropriate." On reading Goleman I get a clear indication that he believes he is the judge of what is and isn't "appropriate."

(When I went back and read Goleman's explanation of his answer I see that he makes it clear he believes in external control of behavior (through fear in this case, the fear of getting fired) and the forced imposition of one's "morals" and values on another. This is one reason I call him the "BF Skinner" of emotional intelligence!)

Finally, Goleman's reference to intolerance suggests that he believes one can be emotionally intelligent, as he loosely defines it, and yet be intolerant! I find this hard to rationalize. I believe tolerance is a reflection of compassion, something which Goleman himself stated so passionately that we need more of! (Goleman, 1995, p xii)

At any rate, this question and Goleman's "correct" answer provides us with one of the clearest signs of how he has slipped his own personal belief system into his presentation of emotional intelligence. Or perhaps we might even say how he has shaped his presentation of emotional intelligence to fit his own belief system.

6. You are trying to calm down a friend who has worked himself up into a fury at a driver in another car who has cut dangerously close in front of him. What do you do?

a. tell him to forget it; he’s okay now and it’s no big deal.
b. put on one of his favourite tapes and try to distract him.
c. join him in putting down the other driver, but exaggerate your reaction.
d. tell him about a time something like this happened to you and how you felt as mad as he does now, but then you saw the other driver was on the way to a hospital emergency room.
Scoring Comments
5 points for b and c

20 points for d

0 points for a

I have several problems with this. First, Goleman gives points for trying to distract the driver out of his feelings. I believe we already are far, far too dependent on distractions, and we need to focus on our feelings and understand them.

2015 Note from Steve Hein - Today I noticed that in question 2 about the child who was crying Goleman gave no points for distraction, but here he does.

Next, I disagree with the idea that joining in the attack is emotionally intelligent. I suspect this will simply help the driver feel justified in his anger, and perhaps even escalate the situation.

Finally, I strongly disagree with Goleman's idea of giving the guy a little lecture. I think a lot of people would tell someone to shut up if they started that on them. It is clearly invalidating. Much better would be to let the driver talk about why it bothers them so much, show some understanding and empathy, rather than acting superior. Whenever someone is upset, it is they who need to do the talking. They don't need a lecture, they need someone to listen to them. I suggest that this is obvious to someone who is truly emotionally enlightened.

In this case, the basis for the anger is fear. As Goleman says, the other driver cut dangerously close to him. An emotionally intelligent response might be "Wow, that was a little scary." With this response you are doing three important things 1) showing empathy, 2) de-escalating the situation 3) helping the driver label their primary feelings

See EQI section on anger

7. You and your boyfriend or girlfriend have gotten into an argument that has escalated into a shouting match; in the heat of anger, you are both making personal attacks you don’t really mean. What’s the best thing to do?

a. take a 20-minute break and then continue the discussion.
b. just stop the argument—go silent, no matter what your partner says.
c. say you’re sorry and ask your partner to apologize too.
d. stop for a moment, collect your thoughts, then state your side of the argument as clearly as you can.
Scoring Comments
20 for a

0 for b,c,d

I have no idea how Goleman came up with this one as being the best answer!

Here are some of my suggestions:

- Ask the other person how much they feel understood by you, from 0-10. Then try to get it up to at least 8.

- Try to help the other person name specific feelings, using feeling words, in an emotionally literate way.

- Ask what would help the other person feel better

- Reflect on what kind of feelings you want to create in the relationship

8. You have been assigned to lead a work group that is trying to come up with a creative solution to a nagging problem at work. What is the first thing you do?

a. draw up an agenda and allot time for discussion of each item so you make best use of your time together.
b. have people take the time to get to know each other better.
c. begin by asking each person for ideas about how to solve the problem, while ideas are fresh.
d. start with a brainstorming session, encouraging everyone to say whatever comes to mind, no matter how wild.

Scoring Comments
20 for b

0 for a, c, d

9. Imagine that you have a 5-year-old son who is extremely timid, and has been hypersensitive about—and a bit fearful of—new places and people since he was born. What do you do?

a. accept that he has a shy temperament and think of ways to shelter him from situations that would upset him.
b. take him to a child psychiatrist for help.
c. purposely expose him to lots of new people and places so he can get over his fear.
d. engineer an ongoing series of challenging but manageable experiences that will teach him he can handle new people and places.
Scoring Comments
5 for b

20 for d

0 for a, c

Here is another confusing scoring system. And I found it noteworthy that Goleman would give someone 5 points for responding that they would take their child to a child psychiatrist. Does this say something about Goleman's belief in the use of medication to get "socially desirable behavior" out of children--or adults? Does it say something about his belief in the cause effect relationship of parents and children?

Also there is very little practical difference between c and d, yet Goleman gives no points for c and 20 for d.

10. For some time now, you have been wanting to get back to playing the musical instrument you learned to play when you were younger. You have finally gotten around to practicing again, and want to make the best use of your time. What do you do?

a. hold yourself to a strict practice time every day.
b. choose pieces that stretch your abilities a bit.
c. practice only when you are really in the mood.
d. pick pieces that are far beyond your ability, but that you can master with diligent effort.
Scoring Comments
20 for b

0 for a, c, d

Notes --

Remember that this is a self-reporting test, so answers don't necessarily reflect true behavior. Further, I suggest that anyone with high IQ and a knowledge of the test author's personal biases could easily increase his score. Also, note that as of November, 1999 Goleman is listed as a "contributor" to the Utne magazine, which suggests to me a financial relationship.

New comments (Feb 2006), part 1

As I look at this test again and think more about how Goleman scored it, I tend to think that either a) Goleman is not a very open minded person, or b) he thinks the public is not very smart.

As for "a" I say this because his answers are often very black or white, and very simplistic. It also gives me more evidence that Goleman is quite judgmental and thinks he knows just how the would should be and what people should do and what is "appropriate" and "inappropriate." Note that he uses the word "inappropriate" in his answer to question 5 about the racist joke.

As for "b" one reason I say this is when I look at question 1, about the airplane. Answer d is "not sure. never noticed." Now how could someone have never noticed "extremely bad turbulence"? I think to myself, "How stupid does he think some people are?" (Then again I think of the school director in Peru who told me he didn't know whether one of the teachers was his wife! See more on this.)

I say this also because it is possible that Goleman knows that there are lots more possible answers than the ones he has offered and he simply watered them down for the public, thinking that we aren't smart enough to handle more complexity.

Or he may have simply been busy when he was writing the test and didn't put much time or thought into it. Or he may have had someone else write it, or copied it from somewhere else. Or he may have just wanted to write a test to go with his little article for Utne, which they probably were paying him for, and he may have wanted to do it as quickly as possible just to meet a deadline and get paid for the article.

Again I am struck by the fact that Goleman is so popular and so wealthy, yet we really know so little about who he actually is, how he thinks, what he really believes, how he feels and what motivates him.

New comments part 2 - Goleman's lack of feelings

I just did a search of the original test and Goleman's answers. I was looking for the words "feel" and "feelings". Nowhere in either the test or the answers does Goleman use either word. (Though he does use the word "felt" one time.)

I really wonder how someone can write a whole book about emotional intelligence and then not even use these words in what is supposed to be a practical test of one's EI.

I am so puzzled by Dan Goleman. To me he is an enigma.

Better answers

The longer I study Goleman's answers, the more I am led to believe he really does not have very good emotional skills. I won't say he is not emotionally intelligent. These are quite different things to me, though they don't seem to be different to him. At any rate, Goleman generally doesn't offer us answers which include talking directly about feelings.

Look at the answers he gives to the problem of the child who feels left out, number 9. He never says "Ask her how she feels" or "Tell her how you feel." Or "Ask her what would help her feel better."

And in the question about the couple arguing, number 7, he also leaves out possible answers such as "Ask how much your partner feels understood from 0 to 10, then try to listen and show understanding till the number improves"

I believe that if Goleman were more emotionally skilled, he would be able to come up with better answers. And though I don't want to sound arrogant, I really believe if he would read my site he could get some helpful ideas. Then again, we don't know what his answers would be like these days, since the test is over 10 years old. But my guess is that Goleman talks less about feelings now than he did back then. I say this because it seems his time has been spent in corporate boardrooms and managers offices, where feelings are typically only talked about indirectly if at all.


For some of my suggestions on how to improve our emotional skills see listening, understanding, validating and emotional literacy

The Peruvian School Director

I have a story about a school director in Peru who answered "I don't know" when I asked him if one of the teachers was his wife! Unfortunately the story is only in Spanish so far, but if you want to have a look, here it is - Colegio1.htm