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Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations

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Societies continue to become more culturally diversified. In part this is due to the globalization of world trade and increase in migration and tourism. In addition, multinational corporations are gaining increased influence. The international workforce continues to become more heterogeneous and the workplace more multicultural. These changes influence the behavioral sciences, which are becoming more cross-culturally orientated (Fontaine, 2005). Researchers and practitioners of industrial/organizational psychology should be cognizant of cultural diversity and its implications in the workplace. One such implication is that cross-cultural psychological assessment continues to increase (Casillas & Robbins, 2005; Van de Vijver, 2002).
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Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures:
Theoretical and Methodological Considerations
Gina Ekermans
Introduction
Societies continue to become more culturally diversified. In part this is due to
the globalization of world trade and increase in migration and tourism. In
addition, multinational corporations are gaining increased influence. The inter-
national workforce continues to become more heterogeneous and the work-
place more multicultural. These changes influence the behavioral sciences,
which are becoming more cross-culturally orientated (Fontaine, 2005).
Researchers and practitioners of industrial/organizational psychology should
be cognizant of cultural diversity and its implications in the workplace. One
such implication is that cross-cultural psychological assessment continues to
increase (Casillas & Robbins, 2005; Van de Vijver, 2002).
Tests of Emotional Intelligence (EI) are increasingly being used extensively
around the world. For example, the Twenty-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale-III
(TAS-20) (Parker, Taylor, & Bagby, 2003) has been translated into 18 languages.
Spanish, French and Portuguese translations of the English Trait Meta-Mood
scale (TMMS; Salovey, Mayer, Goldman, Turvey, & Palfai, 1995) exist (Fernan-
dez-Berrocal, Extremera, & Ramos, 2004; Queir ´
os, Ferna
´ndez-Berrocal, Extre-
mera, Carral, & Queir ´
os, 2005). The Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i,
Bar-On, 1997) has been translated into 22 languages and normative data is
available in more than 15 countries (Bar-On, 2000). Three peer-reviewed publica-
tions that report results based on French (Mikolajczak Luminet, Leroy, & Roy,
2007), Greek (Petrides, Pita, & Kokkinaki, 2007) and Spanish (Petrides, Pe
´rez-
Gonza
´lez, & Furnham, 2007) translations of the English Trait Emotional Intelli-
gence Questionnaire (TEIQue, Petrides, & Furnham, 2003) exist.
When tests are transported from one culture to another the comparability of
psychological measurements across different cultural groups should be
G. Ekermans (*)
Department of Industrial Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Privaatsak X1,
Matieland, 7602, Stellenbosch, Kaapstad, South Africa
e-mail: ekermans@sun.ac.za
C. Stough et al. (eds.), Assessing Emotional Intelligence, The Springer Series
on Human Exceptionality, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-88370-0_14,
ÓSpringer ScienceþBusiness Media, LLC 2009
259
investigated. More specifically, statistical tests of bias and equivalence should
routinely be conducted as such bias and equivalence investigations have
theoretical and practical (applied) relevance. Bias refers to a range of factors
that introduce disturbances into cross-cultural assessment. The measurement
implications of bias in terms of the comparability of scores over cultures, is
termed equivalence (Van de Vijver & Leung, 1997). Culture influences the
transportability of instruments on various levels. For example, an absence of
structural equivalence (i.e., obtaining equal factor structures in various cultural
groups, Van de Vijver & Leung, 1997) could point towards bias at the construct
level. In practice this could mean that a given psychological construct differs
across cultural groups. Research has shown that the dimension Interpersonal
Relatedness in the Chinese indigenous personality measure, the Cross-Cultural
Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI-2), does not load on any of the Big
Five personality factors in the Western model (Cheung, Cheung, Wada, &
Zhang, 2003). Another example is conceptions of intelligence in non-Western
cultures that include ‘‘social intelligence’’ not included in traditional Western
intelligence tests (e.g., the work of Sternberg, 1986).
When anomalies at item level exist, item bias is detected. Differential item
functioning could point towards differences in the psychological meaning of
items over cultures or inapplicability of item content in a specific culture. Two
types of item bias with different practical relevance exist. Non-uniform item bias
(i.e., differences in item discrimination) has implications at the metric invariance/
equivalence level. The implication of evidence of this type of bias is that latent
variables are not measured on the same metric scales across different groups.
Hence, workplace decisions (e.g., personnel selection) based on relative differ-
ences between groups on the latent trait (e.g., EI) may not be meaningful, except
where group specific norms are used to avoid adverse impact (e.g., similar
selection ratios for majority and minority groups). Uniform bias (i.e., a difference
in item difficulty) exists when the regression of the observed item scores on the
latent variable differs across groups in terms of the item intercept. If assumptions
of scalar equivalence remain untested, the impact is likely to be minimal for
within-cultural-group decisions. This is because within a more or less homoge-
neous group, effects score bias should be distributed randomly over scores.
However, between-group differences may be erroneously interpreted in the
absence of scalar invariance evidence. Group differences may be due to mea-
surement bias and not to real differences in the construct or criterion that is the
target of measure. In the absence of such equivalence investigations, the truth
about group differences on the latent trait (i.e., EI) and subsequent practical
implications for group membership in the workplace, is simply not known.
The main focus of this chapter is a brief review of key aspects of three
decades of research on emotion (i.e., emotional regulation, expression, and
recognition) and culture as cross-cultural research on Emotional Intelligence
(EI) is limited. Implications for EI conceptualization and operationalization
within the framework of different cultures are discussed. The discussion
centers on proposed arguments regarding possible cultural bias elements in
260 G. Ekermans
self-report EI instruments by focusing on two prominent self-report mixed
model EI measures (i.e., Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory Short, EQ-i:S,
Bar-On, 2002; Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test, SUEIT;
Palmer & Stough, 2001). It is argued that the Western cultural origin of
both these tests contains descriptions of EI as defined within those cultures
(i.e., Australia for the SUEIT and Canada for the Bar-On EQ-i:S). It is
proposed that the increasingly multicultural global work environment mostly
advocate value systems inherent to the Western industrialized world system
(high individualism and low power distance; Hofstede, 1980, 2001). However,
respondents being assessed within these environments are increasingly coming
from different cultural backgrounds with known differentiation in cultural
value dimensions. Hence, cultural differences in values could introduce bias
into Western cross-cultural EI measures when these are applied cross-
culturally. This has implications for research and practical workplace deci-
sions based on such inventories. Specific items in these inventories are
predicted to be susceptible to cultural bias based on the item content which,
for example, taps some aspect of individualism or power distance (cultural
dimension on which nations tend to differ). Methodological issues related to
cross-cultural EI research is also highlighted.
Emotions, Emotional Intelligence and Culture
Next to motivation, perception, and cognition, emotions are viewed as one
of the basic functions of the human psyche. Since the relatively recent
advent of the construct of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in 1990 (Salovey &
Mayer, 1990) the construct has continued to capture the interest of a wide
audience of scholars and practitioners. Mirroring advances in emotion
research, EI has been connected with numerous cutting-edge areas of psy-
chological science, including neuroscience (Bar-On, Tranel, Denburg, &
Bechara, 2003; Gawryluk & McGlone, 2007; Kemp et al, 2005). EI research
continues to gain momentum with evidence from various studies displaying
an association of EI with psychosomatic and physical health (e.g., Schutte,
Malouff, Thorsteinsson, Bhullar, & Rooke, 2007; Saklofske, Austin,
Galloway, & Davidson, 2007), life satisfaction (Extremera & Ferna
´ndez-
Berrocal, 2005; Gignac, 2006), work performance (Van Rooy &
Viswesvaran, 2004), stressor appraisal and task performance (Lyons &
Schneider, 2005), team (e.g., Jordan, Ashkanasy, Hartel, & Hooper, 2002)
and academic performance (e.g., Parker et al., 2004; Austin, Evans, Gold-
water, & Potter; 2005).
One area of research in EI, however, that remains a relatively uncharted
domain, is that of cross-cultural EI research. Cross-cultural research aims
to develop and extend a more universal psychology by investigating the
generalizability of psychological theory in different cultures (the practice of
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 261
‘transporting and testing’’). Failures to establish generalizability (when
research methodology and measurement instruments are sound) may be
interpreted in terms of cultural variations in behavior (Berry, Poortinga,
Segall, & Dasan, 2002). This has two implications for future cross-cultural
EI research. Firstly, when monocentered instruments (instruments from a
single Western cultural background, Van de Vijver & Leung, 2001) are
used in generalizability studies (e.g., from Western to non-Western cul-
tures), they are more likely to run into bias problems (Van de Vijver &
Leung, 2001). Therefore, testing of the equivalence of scores across differ-
ent groups should routinely be conducted (Van de Vijver & Leung, 2001).
This is a weakness of the limited cross-cultural EI studies conducted up to
this point. Secondly, when cultural bias (construct, item or method) is
uncovered, ways to minimize bias (i.e., method bias) in EI assessment
should be considered, whilst evidence of construct and item bias should
be scrutinized to better uncover the cultural variability of the construct.
This knowledge could then be applied in reducing ethnocentrism (Berry
et al., 2002; Hofstede, 2001) in current EI instruments, as well as designing
better ‘‘culturally tuned’’ EI development programmes (e.g., Herkenhoff,
2004).
This chapter is divided into three main sections. First, a brief overview of
the current state of cross-cultural EI research is presented. Next a review of
key aspects of three decades of emotions and culture research and possible
implications for EI conceptualization and operationalization within the fra-
mework of different cultures is discussed. Lastly, methodological issues related
to cross-cultural EI research is highlighted. The discussion will focus on two
prominent mixed model self-report EI measures (i.e., the EQ-i: S, Bar-On,
2002; SUEIT, Palmer & Stough, 2001). The SUEIT model (Palmer & Stough,
2001) broadly subscribes to the (Salovey & Mayer, 1990; Mayer & Salovey,
1997) EI model. It defines EI in terms of five dimensions (i.e., Emotional
Recognition and Expression, Understanding Others Emotions, Emotions Direct
Cognition, Emotional Management and Emotional Control). The broader Bar-
On model (1997, 2002) proposes that EI encapsulates emotional, social, and
personal competencies, skills, and non-cognitive capabilities that may arise
from the effective use or regulation of emotions and place emphasis on adapta-
tion to environmental demands.
It will be argued that culture influences the transportability of instruments
on various levels (e.g., structural or metric equivalence). For the purpose
of this discussion, national culture is defined as the pattern of values, atti-
tudes, and beliefs that affect the behaviour of people from different countries
(Hofstede, 2001) described in terms of the Hofstede (2001) cultural dimen-
sions. The relevant dimensions include: Individualism–Collectivism (i.e., the
relationship of the individual to the group), Power Distance (i.e., status
differentials that exist within groups) and Uncertainty Avoidance (i.e., rituals
concerning the future and avoidance of anxiety) (Hofstede, 1980, 2001).
262 G. Ekermans
A Brief Review of the Current State of Cross-Cultural EI Research
Based on the Van de Vijver and Leung (1997, 2001) taxonomy
1
of studies in
cross-cultural psychology, EI research in this domain has mostly yielded psy-
chological differences and generalizability studies, and the empirical evidence
on ethnic differences have been noted to be both ‘‘...scant and contradictory’’
(Matthews, Zeidner, & Roberts, 2002, p. 71). This remains to be true for
research on both the prominent ability (the Multifactor Emotional Intelligence
Scale, MEIS; and the Mayer, Salovey and Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test,
MSCEIT; Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 2000) and the mixed model (self-report)
measures of EI (e.g., EQ-i, Bar-On, 1997; Schutte Self-Report Inventory/
Emotional Intelligence Scale, SSRI/EIS, Schutte et al., 1998, SUEIT, Palmer
& Stough, 2001).
For example, a recent psychological differences study with the trait based
Emotional Intelligence Scale (EIS, Schutte et al., 1998) surprisingly reported
higher total EI scores for minority ethnic groups (Blacks, Hispanics), leading
the researchers to pose the question of whether in fact ‘...majority groups
could sue using a claim of test bias’’ (Van Rooy, Alonso, & Viswesvaran, 2005,
p. 694), as group difference in mean predictor scores could be a likely cause of
adverse impact. Rozell, Pettijohn, and Parker (2002) reported significant
differences between domestic (n=219) and international students (n=76) at
an American university, in terms of overall EQ scores and individual factors
on the Emotional Quotient test (Goleman, 1995). Acknowledging that the
study assumes, and not explicitly tests, for whether cultural test score bias
could be the cause of the reported cultural differences, they conclude that
opportunities for success in business for the international students might be
limited by their EI.
Three generalizability studies, to date, on the EI construct (mixed model
measures) across diverse ethnic/cross national cultural groups exist. A study of
the EQ-i: YV (Bar-On & Parker, 2000) on Canadian Aboriginal versus non-
Aboriginal youth was conducted by Parker et al. (2005). This study is exemplary
1
The taxonomy entails a 2 2 classification of studies in (cross-)cultural psychology, based
on two dimensions (i.e., whether the purpose of the study is hypothesis-testing or exploratory,
and whether or not contextual variables were included). Four categories are distinguished.
Hypothesis testing studies include generalisability studies that explore whether research find-
ings obtained in one group (e.g., Western group) can be replicated in another group (e.g., non-
Western group). No contextual elements are taken into account. Equivalence is usually
assessed. When contextual factors are accounted for in hypothesis testing studies, a contextual
theory/theory driven study is conducted. Studies that have an exploratory orientation are
grouped into psychological differences (no consideration of contextual factors) or ecological
linkage/external validation studies. The former applies an instrument in two cultural groups,
without any particular theory regarding the nature of cross-cultural differences to be
expected. The latter, by including a set of contextual variables in an exploratory manner,
aims to provide evidence for specific interpretation of observed cross-cultural differences (Van
de Vijver & Leung, 1997, 2001).
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 263
in acknowledging and theoretically proposing how cultural factors might influ-
ence the operationalization of the construct in the two different cultural groups.
The results of the Parker et al. (2005) study provided preliminary support for
equivalence of the EQ-i: YV (Bar-On & Parker, 2000) scores over the two
groups (results of a multi-group Confirmatory Factor Analyses, CFA, i.e.,
configural invariance,
2
is reported), although not to the extent that the full
measurement invariance
3
(i.e., configural, metric and, scalar invariance) of the
instrument is explicitly investigated. In addition, consistent group differences
over the groups on the total EI score and Interpersonal, Adaptability, and
Stress Management subscales (aboriginal students scored consistently lower)
and post hoc discussions on possible effects and causes of these differences were
presented. Evidence, albeit limited, to support the invariant operation of the
EQ-i: YV, was presented in this study (Parker et al., 2005).
Rahim et al. (2002) investigated the relationship of self-awareness, self
regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills (Emotional Quotient Index,
EQI; Rahim et al., 2002) of supervisors to subordinates’ strategies of managing
conflict. Single group CFA results for the EQI for the data from seven countries
(USA, n=303; Bangladesh, n=152; Hong Kong and Macao, n=79; Greece,
n=132; Portugal, n=86; China, n=210; South Africa, n=84) was reported, as
well as a fully unconstrained multi-group CFA analysis (configural invariance)
for each of the countries with the USA sample. No theoretical explanations for
why culture might produce differences in the cross-national CFA results were
provided. No further tests of invariance were reported. The authors suggest that
the results supported a somewhat consistent cross-country pattern, although
admitting that there were differences in results, and that ‘‘...it is not possible to
determine whether these differences came from the small and convenience
samples or differences in cultures’’ (Rahim et al., 2002, p. 321). It should be
noted that five of the seven country samples sizes fell below the n=200 struc-
tural equation modeling sample size guideline (Hair, Black, Babin, Anderson, &
Tatham, 2005), with the smallest sample being 79, casting doubt on the general-
izability of the results.
The only cross-cultural EI study that has explicitly tested for full instru-
ment invariance was on two early measures of self-report EI (TMMS, Salovey
et al., 1995; TAS-20; Bagby, Taylor, & Parker, 1994) conducted by Ghorbani
et al. (2002). By combining the factors of these measures into an input
2
Configural invariance (Vandenberg & Lance, 2000) is also known as the test of ‘‘factor
structure equivalence’’ (Hair et al., 2005). Evidence for configural invariance points towards a
similar conceptualisation of constructs in different groups (absence of construct bias), to the
extent of the data supporting the same number of factors and similar items associated with
each factor (Meredith, 1993).
3
A lack of measurement invariance evidence is known to compromise the unambiguous
interpretation of between group differences (Byrne & Watkins, 2003; Cheung & Rensvold,
2002; Vandenberg & Lance, 2000) rendering cross-cultural comparisons on cultural mean
differences to be misleading and ultimately, possibly meaningless.
264 G. Ekermans
(attention to emotions), process (clarity of emotions) and output (repair of
emotions) information-processing system, they conducted CFA and measure-
ment invariance procedures to fit the data, obtained from Iranian (n=231)
andAmerican(n=220) university students, to the model. Even though CFA
and measurement invariance procedures provided evidence for cross-cultural
similarities in the fit of the a priori higher-order factor structure, subsequent
analyses revealed cross-cultural dissimilarities in the actual processing of
emotional information (interrelationships among factors differed). This con-
firmed the notion that contrasts between Iranian and American social life
(individualistic versus collectivistic values; Hofstede, 2001) might have impli-
cations for the processing of emotional information in these groups (Ghor-
bani et al., 2002).
Preliminary research on EI ability measures have proven no better in
unraveling cross-cultural differences in EI. The criterion for correctness
(‘‘right’’ answers) on ability EI test items (MEIS, Mayer, Salovey, &
Caruso, 2000; Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test,
MSCEIT; Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2001) are typically
based on target, expert or consensus criteria. Mayer, Caruso, et al.
(2000) argue that the basis for claiming ‘‘right’’ answers is grounded in
evolutionary and cultural foundations for the consistency of emotionally
signaled information. They cite the work of Darwin on the evolution of
emotion (1872/1965) and that of Ekman (1972) who have provided evi-
dence for a strong universal emotional ‘‘language’’ and facial expression of
emotion among humans. In addition, they argue that replications across
literary sources and more recently, the Internet, of ideas or ‘‘cultural
memes’’ is comparable to biological genes. Therefore, emotional ideas are
disseminated and reproduced as popular ideas according to the degree to
which they are found useful and functional within a given culture. They
conclude that consensus criterion is the best single means of determining a
correct answer by stating that ‘‘...if one subscribes to the idea that emo-
tional signals evolve, either biologically or culturally, then a wide, repre-
sentative, sample of observers is probably a good judge of correctness
under at least some circumstances’’ (Mayer, Caruso, et al., 2000, p. 327).
Based on this reasoning it could, therefore, be argued that when consen-
sual scoring is used in ability measures, the possible effects of cultural bias
in this type of EI measurement might be controlled. Could this be an
alternative explanation for results reported by Roberts, Zeidner, and
Matthews (2001), who report no differences between ethnic groups when
consensual scoring was employed (MEIS, Mayer, Salovey, et al., 2000),
but when expert scoring was used, White Americans outperformed minor-
ity American groups on many of the subscales? It should, therefore, be
asked whether ethnic differences, when uncovered with expert scoring,
could be interpreted as ‘‘real’’ differences between these groups, as it
seems plausible to argue that cultural bias effects might be masked by
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 265
expert scoring. Therefore, should consensus scoring
4
not always be used to
minimize any possibility of cultural bias in ability based EI measures?
The goal of the preceding section was to provide a brief and by no means
exhaustive overview of previous attempts to study the EI construct over differ-
ent cultures. As is evident, many theoretical and methodological challenges
implicitly embedded in any attempt to study EI and culture, face the researcher
attempting to tread this unchartered domain.
Culture and Emotion Research: Implications for EI
An important question central to this discussion is whether the notion of an
‘ideal’’ EI profile is context dependent, in the sense that ‘‘appropriate’’ or
‘effective’’ emotional behaviour, will in itself be dictated by the cultural origin
of the measurement instrument used? For example, the two EI instruments
included in this discussion (i.e., SUEIT, EQ-i:S) are classified as monocentered
instruments (Van de Vijver & Leung, 2001). To what extent do such instruments
and the construct they purport to measure, truly reflect the construct and all its
facets in other cultures? Moreover, when imported measures are used, invariant
psychometric properties and higher levels of equivalence of the instruments
should be investigated. Where is the research evidence to support this? Accord-
ing to Hui and Triandis (1985) cross-cultural equivalence can be conceived in
terms of a universality-cultural difference continuum and different levels of
abstraction and concreteness. They argue that when imported measures are
used, researchers should enhance validity and establish different levels of
equivalence in order to surmount the goal of maximising both precision and
meaningfulness of comparison in cross-cultural research. This universality-
cultural difference continuum (to what extent constructs are considered uni-
versally applicable or meaningful in specific cultural context), also known as the
etic–emic (Berry, 1969) debate, has permeated emotions research for three
decades. Research on depression, anxiety and personality have also not proved
to be conclusive on whether imported instruments capture human psychologi-
cal phenomena that are invariant across cultures (Sue & Chang, 2003). For
example, Leong, Okazaki, and Tak (2003) reviewed the assessment of depres-
sion and anxiety in Asia, and concluded that some imported measures
(e.g., State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Chinese Beck Depression Inventory)
miss capturing culture specific elements (e.g., particular symptomatology in
Chinese populations) of these constructs. Cheung et al. (2003) identified the
factor, Interpersonal Relatedness, in the indigenous personality measure the
4
According to Matthews et al. (2002), the test developers of the MEIS/MSCEIT are moving
towards an operational definition of ability based consensus scoring, inferring that a person is
more intelligent if he or she is closer to the population norm. They question the rationale for
scoring an ability on this basis, arguing that, in this context, it is misleading to describe EI as
an ‘‘intelligence’’.
266 G. Ekermans
Cross-Cultural Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI-2), developed for the
Chinese population. This factor did not load on any of the Big Five personality
factors in Western models, whilst they also demonstrated that it was found
among Caucasian US students who completed the CPAI-2, suggesting that
Western measures may not have captured all meaningful important personality
dimensions (Sue & Chang, 2003). Leung and Wong (2003), on the other hand,
assert that broad personality patterns are universal. The successful interna-
tional use and adaptation of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
(MMPI-2) underscores this viewpoint (Butcher, Cheung, & Lim, 2003).
For almost three decades, emotion research has been dominated by the
disciplinary preferences of researchers, leading to an oversimplification in the
debate regarding the cultural universality or relativism of emotional experience.
More specifically, psychologists and biologists have been inclined to overlook
cultural differences, whilst anthropologists emphasize them, overlooking simi-
larities (Ellsworth, 1994). Recent theoretical models endeavor to give an expla-
nation for both universality and cultural variation by focusing on similarities
and differences, across cultural boundaries, of particular components of emo-
tion (Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, & Nisbett, 1998; Mesquita & Frijda, 1992;
Scherer & Wallbott, 1994). Matsumoto (1989), for example, has proposed that
even though emotions are biologically programmed, learning control of expres-
sion and perception is highly dependent on cultural factors. Kitayama and
Markus (1994) published a volume of research consolidating empirical research
dedicated to the premise that emotions are socially and culturally shaped and
maintained. This happens, for example, through collective knowledge that is
represented in linguistic convention (e.g., the nature of the affective lexicon and
specific meanings of emotions terms; Wierzbicka, 1994, 1999). Therefore, it
could be argued that the traits or competencies measured by self-report EI
measures (per EI dimensions, e.g., emotional control, management) tap into
this collective knowledge of the culture within which the test was developed. In
administering a self-report EI instrument, the presence (or absence) of certain
‘traits’’, competencies, or behavioural tendencies that would allow a person to
respond in an emotionally intelligent way to the environment and cope with
environmental pressures, whether that be in the workplace (performance, team
work, leadership, ability to cope with stress, burnout, e.g., Ogin
´ska-Bulik, 2005;
Slaski & Cartwright, 2002; Van Rooy & Viswesvaran, 2004) or life in general
(life satisfaction, psychological and physical health; e.g., Schutte et al., 2007) is
measured within the boundaries of the cultural origin of the test. If the potential
to display appropriate emotionally intelligent behaviours is context-dependent,
then it might be reasoned that the context (socio-cultural context) should be
considered when the behavioural manifestations (through which EI is often
measured) of EI are captured in the development of a self-report instrument.
For example, key cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 2001) such as Individualism
versus Collectivism, high or low Power Distance, and Uncertainty Avoidance
could be significant influences in this process.
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 267
The following section provides a theoretical/conceptual discussion on how
cultural group membership might introduce cultural specificity into the devel-
opment of self-report EI items. The discussion is guided by key findings of three
decades of emotion and culture research, specifically focused on emotional
appraisal and regulation. It is proposed that cultural difference in values could
introduce bias into Western cross-cultural EI measures where these measures are
applied cross-culturally. Specific items are predicted to be susceptible to cultural
bias based on the item content. Table 1 provides an overview of the proposed
affected content of EQ-i: S and SUEIT items included in this discussion (the
content in the table is approximations of selected items from these two inven-
tories, i.e. the item content has been slightly modified from the original).
Emotional Regulation in Cultures
Emotional regulation refers to the processes related to influencing emotions
that are experienced, situations under which a given emotion is experienced,
and how and whether an individual expresses a given emotion (Gross, 1999). It
could be argued that the cultural dimensions of Power Distance, Individualism/
Collectivism, and Uncertainty Avoidance (Hofstede, 2001) may account for
cultural specificity in emotional regulation abilities in respondents from differ-
ent cultures, attenuating beliefs held about the ‘‘correctness’’ of such beha-
viours. The concept of emotional regulation appears in the SUEIT (Palmer &
Stough, 2001) in the Emotional Control and Management
5
subscales, as well as
in the Intrapersonal, Stress Management, and General Mood
6
subscales of the
EQ-i:S (Bar-On, 2002). Consider, for example, that in individualistic cultures
the identity is defined by personal goals and achievement, and emotion norms
encourage emotions signaling independence, authenticity, and assertiveness
(Triandis, 1994). In turn, collectivism stresses that behavior is a function of
norms and duties imposed by the collective; hence the self is defined by one’s
relatedness to a social group whilst the views, needs, and goals of the collective
are stressed (Triandis, 1988, 1994). Here, emotion norms promote emotions that
signal interdependence and endorse harmonious relationships (e.g., sympathy),
as opposed to prescribing concealments of emotions that may impede relation-
ships with others (e.g., anger, pride). Apart from specific influence on emotional
5
Emotional Control refers to how effectively emotional states experienced at work, such as
anger, stress, anxiety and frustration, are controlled. Emotional Management refers to the
ability to manage positive and negative emotions within both oneself and others (Palmer &
Stough, 2001).
6
The Intrapersonal subscale assesses the respondent’s level of inner self-awareness. High
scores indicate individuals who, for example, are in touch with and able to express their
feelings, as well as are independent, strong and confident in conveying their ideas and beliefs.
Stress Management refers to the ability to withstand stress without losing control or ‘‘falling
apart’’. General Mood assesses the ability to enjoy life, be content, positive, hopeful and
optimistic (Bar-On, 2002).
268 G. Ekermans
Table 1 Theoretical framework of predicted cultural bias in (approximated) content
1
of selected SUEIT and Bar-On EQ-i: S items
Item content taps behaviors related to...
Individualism/
collectivism
Power
distance
Uncertainty
avoidance
Display
rules
being helpful towards others
being concerned about others/what happens to them
being more of a follower than a leader
independence in decision making
whether others perceive you as being assertive
easily exploding with anger 
having problems to control/manage anger 
finding it easy to control anger at work 
overcoming anger at work by thinking through what’s causing it 
experiencing strong emotions at work which are hard to control 
finding it hard to control anxiety 
expressing intimate feelings  
expressing feelings to colleagues when anxious  
finding it difficult to convey anxiety to colleagues 
whether colleagues know you are worried  
determining when a colleague’s emotional reactions are inappropriate 
whether a colleague’s facial expressions reveal a lot to you about the way
they are feeling 
being happy/cheerful
finding it difficult to enjoy life
getting depressed
understanding how others feel
whether you can generate positive moods and emotions within yourself to
get over frustration at work
when a colleague upsets you at work, whether you think through what the
person has said to find a solution to the problem
Note. A cross opposite the item indicates that, due to the respective cultural value dimensions (or display rules); the item may be prone to display bias when
included in EI measures that are used for cross-cultural assessment (e.g., transporting a Western developed measure to a non-Western cultural context).
1
The content of the items has been slightly modified.
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 269
regulation discussed below, this cultural dimension might also influence the
differential appropriateness of items and other subscales in the two inventories
under discussion. It may be argued, for example, that items with content which
focuses on behaviours like generally assisting/helping others, independence in
decision making and whether one generally cares about other people, might
introduce cultural bias into these measures as such item content taps into typical
collectivistic values (and their associated behavioural manifestations). This
could threaten the construct validity of these measures.
Individualism/Collectivism
According to Triandis and Gelfand (1998) conflict-inducing behaviours are
minimized in collectivistic cultures (e.g., Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines)
whilst individualistic cultures (e.g., Australia, Canada, USA) will be more
tolerant of individual deviance. Therefore, fewer constraints that govern a
wide range of emotion expression experiences in and among members will
occur. In addition, Kitayama and Markus (1994) inquire whether it might be
that anger is a highly pervasive, central, and natural emotion in Western
countries because of the emphasis on independence and the social norm of
freely expressing internal attributes, such as rights, goals, or needs and hence
because anger is most closely associated with blocking of these rights, goals and
needs. Anger is therefore appropriate in situations where personal goals or
individual rights are threatened (Averill, 1982). In addition, anger expression
allows for restoring honor in this context (Cohen & Nisbett, 1994). In contrast,
Asian/Eastern countries stress interdependence among individuals (attending
others’ needs and goals) (Hofstede, 2001; Triandis, 1994) and therefore
Kitayama and Markus (1994) has asked whether it could be argued that
anger is less common, natural and integrated into the social life of individuals
in non-Western cultures, or even that the two forms of anger (in these two
cultures) are distinct? This might have cultural bias implications for items in EI
assessment instruments (which measure Emotional Control) that contain the
word ‘‘anger’’, e.g. ‘‘I find it easy to control my anger at work’’.
Display Rules
In addition, the linguistic implications of using a term like ‘‘anger’’ in a self
report instrument should also be considered. For example, the standard English
US translation for ‘‘anger’’ in Japanese is, ‘‘ikari’’. It could be argued that if
equivalent translation is assumed when this term is included in self-report
questionnaire items, these two references to ‘‘anger’’ resemble each other by
sharing important elements such as autonomic arousal and the use of certain
face muscles. However, the exact set of participating components (e.g., instru-
mental responses, inhibitory tendencies) related to ‘‘anger’’ may vary widely
across the two cultures (Kitayama & Markus, 1994). The most prominent
influence here is the use of display rules in emotional regulation. Display rules
270 G. Ekermans
serve as socially and culturally learned norms that specify the appropriateness
of displaying and expressing emotions and are known to be a source of cultural
variation in emotional phenomena (Ekman, 1972). According to Ekman and
Friesen (1975) display rules affect facial expressions of emotion in several ways.
Facial expressions of an emotion may be displayed without a corresponding
feeling. They could mask the presence of another inappropriate emotion,
attenuate or enhance the apparent intensity of a felt emotion, or even entirely
mask or inhibit a felt emotion. Recently, Matsumoto, Yoo, Hirayama, and
Petrova (2005) found that when displaying fear, anger, or sadness, Japanese and
Russian respondents are inclined to soften the impression by adding a slight
smile, indicating that although they are distressed, ‘‘it isn’t really that bad’’.
Americans also express their emotions more visibly than do Japanese or
Russian people. According to Matsumoto (1990, 1996) moderate displays of
anger are fairly common in the USA. The display of sadness or other negative
emotions are more appropriate towards friends and family, than acquaintances,
with the opposite being true in the Japanese culture. However, in Japan it is
considered appropriate to display anger towards subordinates, but any other
display of anger is considered crude and inappropriate (Matsumoto, 1996).
Moreover, Ellsworth (1994) asserts that it is not only a matter of the visible
behaviour (e.g., behavioral manifestations of anger); cultures also seem to differ
in their beliefs about the appropriateness of even feeling certain emotions in
certain contexts. For example, in American culture, in most social contexts it is
considered inappropriate for men to cry, and also experience deep grief as
strongly and frequently as women. Therefore, it could be argued that each
culture’s values about emotions and their expression may come to affect the
essential experience (and the expression and, ultimately, the definition) of that
emotion (Ellsworth, 1994).
Items like ‘‘I find it easy to control my anger at work’’, ‘‘I overcome anger at
work by thinking through what’s causing it’’, and ‘‘At work I experience strong
emotions that are hard to control’’ are used to assess different components of
emotional regulation in the EI measures under discussion. By including ‘‘anger’
as an anchor and standard of cross-cultural comparison and generalization in
EI assessment, it might be plausible to argue that an ethnocentric understand-
ing of this emotion in emotional regulation is enhanced and maintained.
Furthermore, it might be plausible to argue that respondents from countries
with cultures with well-defined display rules, might very seldom ‘‘explode’’ with
anger. If these lines of reasoning are followed it should be noted that items in
this facet of EI measurement (emotional regulation) might be particularly
susceptible to cultural bias (which would influence the transportability of the
given instrument from Western to non Western cultural contexts).
Uncertainty Avoidance
The Uncertainty Avoidance (UA) Index refers to the degree a society is willing
to accept and deal with uncertainty (Hofstede, 2001). The essence of uncertainty
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 271
is that it is a subjective experience, and that extreme uncertainty creates intol-
erable anxiety (Hofstede, 2001). Countries that score high on the UA dimension
(e.g., Italy; Hofstede, 2001) tend to be more expressive cultures. In such cultures
it is socially acceptable to express emotions, as anxiety is released through the
showing of emotions through which society has created outlets (Hofstede,
2001). In low Uncertainty Avoidance societies (e.g., Malaysia, Hofstede,
2001), anxiety is released through passive relaxation, whilst such cultures are
characterized by lower expressiveness. The norm is wide social disapproval of
overly emotional or noisy behaviour. Items like, ‘‘I overcome anger at work by
thinking through what’s causing it’’, ‘‘I find it easy to control my anger at work’’
and ‘‘At work I experience strong emotions that are hard to control’’ therefore
might contain cultural bias when used in EI measures applied in different
cultures.
Power Distance
Power Distance (PD) prescribes how societies deal with inequality between
people (Hofstede, 2001). In high PD societies (also termed a vertical society;
Matsumoto, 1996), for example Malaysia, the workplace relations between
employer and employee are strictly ruled and dependent on the decisions of
the employer. Power is centralised as much as possible. Superiors and subordi-
nates generally consider each other as existentially unequal (Hofstede, 2001).
Emotions and behaviours that advertise and reinforce status are encouraged. In
low PD societies (horizontal societies; Matsumoto, 1996) employers and
employees work closely together, have equal status (even when education levels
differ) and democratic practices are applied. Here, general predictions about the
experience and expression, and hence regulation, of emotion is largely con-
cerned with who is expected to and allowed to express which emotions to whom.
The notion that in high PD cultures dominant strong emotions (e.g., anger and
pride) will be expressed by superiors to subordinates (which will, in turn,
express submissive emotions, e.g., appreciation, shame), has been confirmed
by two studies (Bochner & Hesketh, 1994; Mondillon et al., 2005). In Japan, for
example, it is appropriate for a high status person to express anger to subordi-
nates, as this emotion implies high status and a threat to hierarchy (Matsumoto,
1990), whilst the inverse is known to be deeply offensive in Japanese culture
(Matsumoto, 1996). A very clear influence of display rules is noted in this
culture, as felt emotions by group members/subordinates (anger, sad, afraid)
will be controlled to maintain group harmony. Once again, items containing the
word ‘‘anger’’ (‘‘I find it easy to control my anger at work’’ and ‘‘At work I
experience strong emotions that are hard to control’’) may be susceptible to
cultural bias depending on which group the respondent belong to. Items that
refer to emotional regulation directed at group members, rather than members
from other groups that imply a PD effect, may have better face validity and not
be so prone to cultural bias. However, often 360 degree versions of EI tests, in
which subordinates rate their leader’s EI, are based on self report measures. An
272 G. Ekermans
item like ‘‘The person I am rating finds it hard to convey anxiety to colleagues’
may be susceptible to bias as a leader in a high PD environment will most
probably not convey anxiety to subordinates.
Emotional Expression
Although convincing evidence for the universality of posed and spontaneous
facial emotional expression in early cross-cultural studies has been found
(Ekman & Friesen, 1971; Ekman, 1972; Friesen, 1972), the concept of display
rules (Ekman, 1972) and the neuro-cultural theory of emotion proposed by
Ekman and Friesen (1969) served in acknowledging the presence of cultural
variation in emotional expression. For example, a study by Pittam, Gallois,
Iwawaki, and Kroonenberg (1995) recently reported agreement amongst Aus-
tralian and Japanese respondents regarding the cultural differences in emotion
expressivity (i.e. perceived expressivity of people of different cultural back-
grounds). More specifically, Japanese were consistently rated as less expressive
than Australians by all subjects (Pittam et al., 1995), providing confirmation of
previous reported cultural and ethnic differences in intensity ratings of emotion
expressions (Matsumoto & Ekman, 1989; Matsumoto, 1993; Scherer, Wallbott,
Matsumoto, & Kudoh, 1988). Recent evidence suggests, furthermore, that
these cultural and ethnic differences also hold in Irish and Scandinavian Amer-
ican immigrant groups (Tsai & Chentsova-Dutton, 2003) with Irish Americans
consistently being more facially expressive (when asked to relive target emo-
tions like happiness, love and anger), than their Scandinavian counterparts.
Emotional expression appears in the Bar-On (2002) EI model in the Intra-
personal subscale.
7
In the SUEIT, emotional expression appears in the com-
pound Emotional Recognition and Expression
8
factor. Typical items include:
‘When I’m anxious at work, I find it difficult to express this to my colleagues’’,
‘I can portray how I’m feeling to colleagues through my body language’’,
‘Colleagues know when I’m worried’’, and ‘‘I find it hard to convey my anxiety
to colleagues’’.
Individualism/Collectivism
A study of the appropriateness of displaying emotions in different social situa-
tions (individualistic versus collectivistic cultures), characterised by in-group
(i.e., close family and friends) and out-group (i.e., in public, casual acquain-
tances) members, were conducted by Matsumoto (1990). Japanese subjects
7
The Intrapersonal subscale measures emotional self-awareness, as well as the ability to
express feelings and communicate emotional needs to others (Bar-On, 2002).
8
Emotional Recognition and Expression refers to the ability to identify one’s own feelings
and emotional states, as well as the ability to express those inner feelings to others (Palmer &
Stough, 2001).
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 273
rated the display of anger to out-groups as more appropriate than Americans.
Americans, on the other hand, rated the display of disgust and sadness to in-
groups as more appropriate. To Americans, the display of happiness in public
was more befitting than to Japanese. In general, items in EI tests tapping
emotional expression, refer to ‘‘others’’, ‘‘other people’’ or ‘‘colleagues’’ (e.g.,
‘It is hard for me to share my deep feelings with others’’) with no indication as to
the relationship between the expressor and perceiver. This may obscure effec-
tive measurement of emotional expression, as respondents are not allowed to
indicate when it is more appropriate to display/express certain emotions to
‘others’’ or ‘‘colleagues’’. For example, if there is sufficient trust between
colleagues, then colleagues may become friends, view each other as part of an
in-group, and the expression of negative emotions within the American indivi-
dualistic culture to ‘‘colleagues’’ should be appropriate. For example, an item
like ‘‘I can tell others when I am angry at them’’ may then indicate effective
emotionally intelligent behavior, which should facilitate stress relief and lessen
burnout. If the same scenario in Japanese culture exists, it would not be deemed
appropriate to display anger to friends (i.e. colleagues, the in-group), render-
ing this item problematic. Hence, it is recommended that items of emotional
expression should differentiate between in-group and out-group members to
more efficiently determine whether a respondent will appropriately display
emotions (given the cultural context) and subsequent emotionally intelligent
behaviours.
Emotion Recognition (Judgment) in Self and Others
Classic studies in literate and preliterate cultures (Ekman & Friesen, 1971;
Ekman, 1972; Izard, 1971) provided evidence for the universality of recognition
of ‘‘basic’’ emotions (i.e., anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) in
facial expressions, at above-chance accuracy. Critics of these studies have
questioned the lack of ecological validity of the stimuli used (Mesquita &
Frijda, 1992) whilst others have focused on methodological issues (e.g., use of
forced choice repose formats; Russell, 1994). Others have argued that cultural
differences in the data of these original studies were overlooked as the interest of
the researchers was in exploring agreement, not disagreement (Matsumoto &
Assar, 1992) and therefore the examination of cultural differences in the same
data has received more attention recently (e.g., Mesquita & Frijda, 1992;
Russell, 1994). For example, Huang, Tang, Helmeste, Shioiri, and Smoeya
(2001) report results (Japanese and Caucasian Facial Expressions of Emotion
photo set, Matsumoto & Ekman, 1988) that imply cross-cultural differences
between American and Asian viewers in identifying emotions from static facial
expressions. This was noted particularly when the posed emotion had negative
consequences. In addition, evidence for the cultural universality (Scherer, Banse,
& Wallbott, 2001) and differences (Van Bezooijen, Otto, & Heenan, 1983)
274 G. Ekermans
in recognition of emotions in vocal affect has been reported. A recent meta-
analysis by Elfbein and Ambady (2002) provided compelling evidence to support
an interactionist interpretation of emotional recognition. Although evidence was
found for the universality of certain core components of emotion, evidence of an
in-group advantage (i.e., understanding emotions more accurately when they are
expressed by members of the same national, ethnic, or regional group) that
accounts for the cultural variability in emotion recognition was also reported.
The meta-analysis was based on the results of 97 studies (182 samples). More
importantly, the results also suggest that the ‘...match between the cultural
background of the expresser and judge is important...’ (Elfbein & Ambady,
2002, p. 229), which is consistent with the theory of cultural learning of emotional
behaviour. Moreover, the in-group advantage was also noted in groups that
share the samenative language (e.g., when English-speaking groups like Scottish,
Irish and New Zealanders judged the emotional expressions of Americans)
(Elfbein & Ambady, 2002).
Emotional recognition is a core facet of EI. It appears in the revised and
refined Mayer and Salovey model (1997) as ‘‘branch one’’ termed Perception of
Emotion (i.e., the ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others, as well as in
objects, art, stories, and the like). In the Bar-On (2002) model it appears in the
Intrapersonal as well as the Interpersonal subscales,
9
whilst being contained in
the Emotional Recognition and Expression, as well as Emotional Understand-
ing
10
factors in the SUEIT (Palmer & Stough, 2001). Items that tap into
different elements of emotional recognition (verbal and non-verbal) and that
may be influenced by an in-group advantage between the expresser and percei-
ver include: ‘‘It is hard to determine how a colleague is feeling from their body
language alone’’, ‘‘I can tell how a colleague is feeling by the tone of their voice’’,
‘I can determine when a colleague’s emotional reactions are inappropriate’’,
and ‘‘Colleagues’ facial expressions reveal a lot to me about the way they are
feeling’’. It is important that the item content explicitly differentiate between in-
and out-group members.
Individualism Versus Collectivism
As there is strong evidence to suggest cultural differences in emotional expres-
sion, differences in interpreting emotional displays are likely to exist between
cultures. Some have suggested that due to an inward focus in individualistic
cultures, individuals tend to project their feelings onto others. In contrast, in
collectivistic cultures the ability to be aware of the impact of one’s emotions on
9
The Interpersonal subscales assesses the extent to which an individual is able to establish
cooperative, constructive, and satisfying interpersonal relationships as well as the ability to
understand and appreciate the feelings of others (Bar-On, 2002).
10
The Understanding Emotions subscale measures the ability to identify and understand the
emotions of others and those that manifest in response to workplace environments (e.g., staff
meetings).
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 275
others is emphasized (Cohen & Gunz, 2002). Moreover, when estimating the
intensity of facial expressions, Japanese tend to rate weak expressions as con-
stituting of stronger underlying emotions than when Americans rate the same
facial expression (Matsumoto & Ekman, 1989). In addition, they rate both
happiness and negative emotions of lesser intensity than their American coun-
terparts (Matsumoto & Ekman, 1989). These findings have been interpreted in
the light of the effect of display rules (Matsumoto, Yoo, Hirayama, & Petrova,
2005). Americans may be more prone to trusting the authenticity of the display,
whilst the Japanese are inclined to infer from a weak expression that even
though a person feels a strong emotion, they partly inhibited it.
A recent study by Masuda, Ellsworth, Mesquita, Leu, and Veerdonk (2005)
on Japanese and American university students, reports that social context
affects the perceived intensity of facial expression. The results revealed that
the perceived intensity of facial expressions (e.g., a central figure in picture
displaying anger) judged by Japanese (collectivist culture), were more influ-
enced by the social context of emotions (e.g., others in a picture showed to the
respondent, also displayed anger), than the perceived intensity of expressions
judged by individuals from individualistic cultures (i.e., the social context did
not play such a big role in the judgment).
Items such as ‘‘Colleagues’ facial expressions reveal a lot to me about the way
they are feeling’’ and ‘‘I can determine when a colleague’s emotional reactions
are inappropriate’’ may be susceptible to bias due to the effect of display rules
and values embedded in collectivistic versus individualistic cultures, as evi-
denced by the aforementioned studies. In addition, the item ‘‘I’m good at
understanding the way other people feel’’ might be biased as Japanese will
rarely describe themselves as ‘‘above average’’, no matter how skillful they
actually are (Kalat & Shiota, 2007).
Cross-Cultural EI Research: Methodological Issues
Convergence of Two Approaches
Different terminology for the two distinct approaches, i.e., etic–emic, cultural-
specific–cultural general, and cultural–cross-cultural, in the research of
emotion across cultures are often used. The increasing emergence of the inter-
actionist perspective permeating recent theoretical models (Matsumoto, 1989;
Russell, 1994; Scherer & Wallbott, 1994) that account for universality and
cultural variation in particular aspects of emotion, concur that both these
strategies/approaches are important for advancement in the field. Mirroring
these advances in emotion research, research on EI across cultures should aim
to harness the potential of both these approaches whilst avoiding known
methodological pitfalls. Cross-cultural research in EI to date is rudimentary
and limited. Without such cross-cultural comparisons, psychological theory is
276 G. Ekermans
confined to its own cultural boundaries (Van de Vijver & Leung, 2001). In
conducting cross-cultural EI research, ethnocentrism in current EI theories
(and associated measurement instruments) may be reduced as the limitations
of current theories are acknowledged, by seeking to extend the data and theory
through inclusion of other cultures (Berry et al., 2002). For example, although
scientific efforts addressing the matter of if and how EI can be developed, is in
infancy (e.g., Wong, Foo, Wang, & Wong, 2007; Zeidner, Matthews, Roberts,
& MacCann, 2003; Matthews, Roberts, & Zeidner, 2003), the utility of cross-
cultural knowledge to enhance our understanding in this EI domain, should not
be underestimated. If it is argued that more congruence (better fit) between
personal and cultural norms/beliefs enhance social interactions and adjustment
(typical outcomes of individuals with high EI) then a detailed understanding of
how culture drives the norms of emotionally intelligent behaviour (in a specific
culture), is an essential basis for any development intervention. This highlights
the need for EI research studies conducted from within the cultural psychology
framework. That is, where individual behaviour (or psychology), and culture
are viewed and studied as mutually constitutive phenomena (Miller, 1997).
Leung and Zang (1995), for example, noted the need for indigenous research
and theorizing, as well as research that integrates different cultural perspectives,
as vital to the establishment of more universal psychological theories and their
usefulness.
Cultural Bias in EI Measurement Instruments: Construct, Item
and Method Bias
The methodological ideal in cross-cultural psychology is to transport a proce-
dure established in one culture, with known psychometric properties, to one or
more cultures with the goal of making a cross-cultural comparison (Berry et al.,
2002). The methodology of the natural sciences is mirrored in these comparative
studies, with the preference for using standard instruments and a priori for-
mulated hypotheses which is being tested in an experimental or quasi-experi-
mental fashion (Poortinga, 1997). However, the practice of ‘‘blindly exporting’
Western instruments to other cultures, without concern for the appropriateness
of the measures, could seriously impede theoretical advances (Van de Vijver &
Leung, 2001). In this chapter, various theoretical/conceptual propositions that
explore why current Western monocentered self report EI measures might be
susceptible to cultural bias, when exported to different cultures, have been
suggested. Bias encapsulates a range of factors that introduce ‘‘disturbances’’
into cross-cultural assessment, influencing the comparability of scores across
cultures (Van de Vijver, 2003). Hence, if bias is present, the differences in
scores of the indicators of a particular construct do not correspond with
differences in the underlying trait or ability (Van de Vijver & Tanzer, 1997).
This has a bearing on the equivalence of the scores across cultures and more
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 277
specifically, the scope for comparing the scores over different cultures, with
decisions on the absence or presence of equivalence being grounded in
empirical evidence (Van de Vijver, 2003). It has been argued that the problem
of bias in cross-cultural research is mostly related to three sources, i.e., the
construct being studied, the methodological procedure and the item content
(Byrne & Watkins, 2003; Van de Vijver & Poortinga, 1997; Van de Vijver &
Tanzer, 1997). Cultural bias, when uncovered, provides systematic informa-
tion about cross-cultural differences, which should not be equated with
measurement error (Berry et al., 2002). Such knowledge (i.e., cultural speci-
ficity of the construct) could be applied in modifying existing EI instruments,
as well in guiding the development of more culturally appropriate develop-
ment interventions.
Construct bias is present when the effects of a biasing factor relate to the
operationalization of a construct, and therefore the construct contains a degree
of disparate meaningfulness when measured over the different cultural groups
(Berry et al., 2002; Byrne & Watkins, 2003). If construct bias exists, the psy-
chological construct is not identical across cultures (Van de Vijver & Leung,
1997). Consider, for example, the inclusion of a ‘‘happiness’’ subscale into the
EQ-i (Bar-On, 1997). In European-American culture, the right to the pursuit of
happiness (e.g., made explicit in American Constitution) shapes the view that
happiness should be a defining personal characteristic central to the identity of
self. Therefore, expression of unhappiness signals failure (D’Andrade, 1984)
and would possibly be equated with less emotionally intelligent behaviour in
this culture. In the Asian cultural model of emotion, moderation in emotional
experience and expression serves the fundamental belief embedded in dominant
religions (e.g., Buddhism) that there is a need for a balance between positive
and negative feelings, each moderating the extent of the other (Mesquita &
Leu, 2007). Here, the inclusion of a ‘‘happiness’’ subscale with item content
that, for example, refers to being happy with your life, finding pleasure in life
and generally being cheerful, may obscure the conceptualisation of EI in Asian
cultures. That is, it could be argued that happiness may not be a central dimen-
sion that defines emotionally intelligent behaviour within the Asian cultural
context.
In relation to item content, the effects of a biasing factor can manifest in a
single or few items, known as ‘‘item bias’’ or ‘‘differential item functioning’’
(DIF) (Berry et al., 2002). Poor translation or inappropriate items for a specific
context may cause item bias (Van de Vijver & Leung, 1997). Item bias involves a
lack of equivalence in a separate indicator or item (Fontaine, 2008). Hence, if
individuals from different cultural groups with an equal ability/trait/attitude do
not have the same probability of giving a correct answer, item bias exists (Van
de Vijver & Leung, 1997). If removing biased items eliminates group differences
on the scale, the groups may have differed because of DIF rather than from
inherent group differences in the construct. The previous sections attempted to
explicate how cultural dimensions and subsequent cultural group membership,
278 G. Ekermans
could introduce these two types of bias into self-report EI measurement when
applied cross culturally.
However, the possibility of method bias in EI measurement should also
be considered. Method bias is present if the assessment procedure intro-
duces unwanted inter-group differences (Van de Vijver & Leung, 1997). In
this case the biasing factor influences responses on most, or all items
(Berry et al., 2002). Four common sources of method bias include differ-
ential social desirability, differential response styles (e.g., extremity scoring
and acquiescence), differential stimulus familiarity and the lack of compar-
ability of samples (Berry et al., 2002; Byrne & Watkins, 2003). In addition,
the language of assessment in multilingual persons, i.e., employees who
work in big multinational companies often respond to psychometric ques-
tionnaires in their second language, might be a potential source of method
bias (Church, 2001).
Applying Measurement Invariance in Cross Cultural EI Research
In cross-cultural psychology, typical statistical techniques used to investigate
structural equivalence include Exploratory Factor Analysis, followed by target
rotation and the calculation of Tucker’s phi (Van de Vijver & Leung, 1997; Van
de Vijver, 2003). Obtaining evidence of structural equivalence allows the
researcher to conclude that the psychological constructs underlying the instru-
ment are identical (Van de Vijver & Leung, 1997). However, a less popular
alternative is to utilize CFA, which allows for the testing of a large set of
hierarchically linked hypotheses of cross-cultural invariance (Van de Vijver &
Leung, 2001). More specifically, the use of multi-group CFA modeling
(J ¨
oreskog, 1971) via Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) is especially func-
tional and effective in establishing cross-national measurement invariance
(MI) (Steenkamp & Baumgartner, 1998). Here measurement equivalence (or
invariance) is defined as the mathematical equality of corresponding measure-
ment parameters for a given factorially defined construct, across two or
more groups (Little, 1997). More specifically, obtaining MI indicates that
(Little, 1997, p. 56):
(1) the constructs under investigation are generalizable to each sociocultural context;
(2) that the least possible amount of sources of bias and error are present (e.g., cultural
bias, translation errors); (3) it is valid to assume that cultural influences have not
impacted the construct’s underlying measurement features; and (4) it is permissible to
assess between-culture differences as mean-level, variance and covariance, or correla-
tional effects.
An increasing amount of researchers have applied measurement invariance
procedures to address aspects of the cross-cultural generalizability of mea-
sures and their associated models (e.g., Crockett, Shen, Randall, Russell, &
Driscoll, 2005; Culhane, Morera, & Watson, 2006; Little, 1997; Riordan &
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 279
Vandenberg, 1994) whilst others have focused on conducting cross-group
comparisons with ethnic groups or different nationalities (e.g., Durvasula,
Andrews, Lysonski, & Netemeyer, 1993; Ghorbani et al., 2002) as the basis for
comparison, as opposed to gender or age (e.g., De Frias & Dixon, 2005;
Gomez & Fisher, 2005).
With the recent resurgence of MI research, and increased application of the
procedure, the aim is often to uncover instrument invariance as a way to
ensure that group differences on the mean scores of a construct are mean-
ingfully comparable. A different, and much less frequent application of MI
tests is applying it in a hypothesis testing context where a priori conceptual
and theoretical grounds (e.g., diversity in sociocultural contexts) may be
identified as to why differences in psychological processes may exist
(Vandenberg, 2002), and using MI procedures to uncover such differences.
For example, Cheung and Rensvold (2002, p. 252) recently argued that,
‘metric invariance...need not be seen merely as an obstacle that must be
surmounted before the equality of latent means can be assessed; rather it
should be seen as a source of potentially interesting and valuable information
about how different groups view the world...the same comment can be made
with respect to any one of the measurement invariance failures considered.’’
Therefore, in cross-cultural research such an approach to MI testing requires
that an absence of non-invariance should be predicted a priori, based on the
conceptual basis of differential cultural values (Chan, 2000), across the dif-
ferent groups that are being studied. This could be a powerful way to explore
the cultural specificity of the construct, instead of just providing highly spec-
ulative, post hoc interpretations of why MI failed to hold over the various
groups under investigation.
In extending the use of MI tests as a hypothesis testing tool in the
context of cross-cultural research, the only two studies that have attempted
this (Cheung & Rensvold, 2000; Riordan & Vandenberg, 1994) have been
criticised for not operationalising the ‘‘trigger’’ event – for example, assum-
ing that because a person belongs to a certain nationality, he or she
automatically prescribes to the national value system (e.g., US nationals
prescribing to an Individualistic value system, Malaysian nationals pre-
scribing to high Power Distance). As the degree of prescription to these
value systems was not directly operationalized the validity of the results
have been questioned (Vandenberg, 2002). However, it could be argued
this is a problem permeating almost all cross-cultural research. Recent
empirical advances have seen the development of individual-level measures
(Matsumoto, Weissman, Preston, Brown, & Kupperbuscg, 1997; Triandis
& Gelfand, 1998) and its related concept of independent versus interde-
pendent self-construals. However, individual level measures to accurately
measure the other dimensions of culture still need to be developed and
should in future be incorporated into studies as context variables to
effectively unpack cross-cultural comparisons (Matsumoto, 2004).
280 G. Ekermans
Conclusion
Gohm (2004) in her commentary on the target article of Matthews et al. (2004)
in Psychological Inquiry (‘‘Seven myths about emotional intelligence’’), notes
cross-cultural work, especially in non-Western countries, as an obvious area for
further investigation to expand our current understanding of EI. In this chapter
current available cross-cultural EI research was reviewed. Weaknesses of these
studies were outlined. Attention was drawn to the need to examine cultural bias
and inequivalence in future culture-comparative EI studies. To this end a review
of key aspects of three decades of emotions and culture research was presented,
whilst implications for EI conceptualization and operationalization within the
framework of different cultures were discussed. The discussion focused on
emotional regulation, expression and recognition as key aspects of EI. Sugges-
tions are made how cultures may differ on these aspects of EI. It was argued that
such differences may be a result of the fact that cultures (with different cultural
value dimensions) differentially define appropriate and adaptive emotionally
intelligent behaviours. Hence, cultural differences in values (e.g., Power Dis-
tance, Individualism) could introduce cultural bias into Western cross-cultural
EI measures when these are applied cross-culturally. Specific items were pre-
dicted to be susceptible to cultural bias based on the item content, which, for
example, taps some aspect of Individualism or Power Distance values (cultural
dimensions upon which most nationalities differ). The presence of cultural bias
(construct, method or item bias) would express itself in the structural, metric or
scalar equivalence of the given instruments, when measures are transported
from one culture (e.g., Western) to another (e.g., non-Western).
As a first step in the advancement of cross-cultural EI research, this chapter
illustrated the need to differentiate cultural bias from true construct variance in
self-report mixed model measures of EI. This is important in cross cultural EI
research in general. It also has practical implications when such measures are
utilized in the increasingly multicultural workplace. The equivalence of mea-
surement operations of transported measures should routinely be inspected
before mean differences on the latent trait may be meaningfully compared
across groups. EI has been described as, ‘‘highly influential and important in
occupational settings, a construct that may even hold the promise of a predictor
with reduced adverse impact’’ (Zeidner, Matthews, & Roberts, 2004, p. 394). EI
has been found predictive of real life criteria (Van Rooy & Viswesvaran, 2004)
and is increasingly being used in the workplace as a predictor (Van Rooy et al.,
2005). If equivalence assumptions remain untested, the practical utility of EI as
a valid predictor when utilised over different cultural groups, may be question-
able. An absence of metric equivalence, for example, requires within group
norms to avoid adverse impact in personnel selection decisions. Whether such
norms are available and being used is an issue beyond the scope of this chapter.
The development of EI inventories in Asia and Africa, independent of Western
influences, might add valuable knowledge to the current conceptualization of
Emotional Intelligence Across Cultures 281
the construct. The development of such indigenous scales may uncover other
aspects of emotional intelligent behaviors which are cultural specific, and have
strong predictive validity within that culture (or even other cultures). It is pro-
posed that the development of such inventories should be completely void of
Western influence so as to allow for true cultural conceptualizations of the
construct to be captured. For example, even though The Emotional Intelligence
Scale (WLEIS) was developed in Hong Kong by Wong and Law (2002) it may
still not capture the full conceptualization of EI in this culture. This is because the
scale was developed by asking students to generate items for the four Mayer and
Salovey (1997) EI dimensions. It may be argued that this imposed a Western,
ethnocentric definition of the construct into the scale development process.
Although a recent replicationin the Beijing and Shandong provinces in mainland
China found support for the four factor structure of the WLEIS (Wang, 2007), it
does not necessarily preclude the existence of other dimensions of EI in this
culture (not included in this scale).
On a practical level cross cultural EI assessment practices should be uni-
formly applied – especially when research is being conducted. For example, a
respondent’s verbal ability may influence test results in the form of method bias
and confound MI (equivalence) results. Marsh (1996) has demonstrated a
negative relationship between the observation of a negatively keyed item factor
and verbal ability. This suggests that individuals with less verbal skill (e.g.,
bilinguals) may have difficulty reading negatively keyed items accurately, par-
ticularly those items with double negatives. Wong, Rindfleish, and Burroughs
(2003) have also identified cultural variability in the applicability of reverse-
worded Likert-type questions. They report such items to be problematic when
administered to East Asian, but not Western, populations. Hence, when possi-
ble, mother tongue testing should be conducted. This implies that translation
equivalent versions of instruments should be used.
In addition, the possibility that method bias exists as a product of national
differences in response styles, should also be routinely inspected in cross-
cultural research. Extreme Response Styles (ERS) is the tendency to use the
extreme ends of a rating scale (Cheung & Rensvold, 2000; Van Herk et al.,
2004). Acquiescence Response Style (ARS) is also known as agreement
bias, i.e., a tendency to agree with questions, regardless of question content
(Johnson, Kulesa, Cho, & Shavitt, 2005). In Western cultures this type of
method bias should be minimal as high Individualism (Hofstede, 1980) is
associated with less ARS (Van Hemert, Van de Vijver, Poortinga, & Georgas,
2002) and not related to ERS (Johnson et al., 2005). However, method bias may
be more pronounced in scores obtained from non-Western societies character-
ized by Collectivism and high Power Distance (e.g., Malaysia, India). That is
because high Power Distance is associated with ERS (Johnson et al., 2005) and
more ARS (Van Hemert et al., 2002). Collectivism has also been found to be
positively related to ARS (Smith, 2004). Demonstrating that a measure is free of
ERS and ARS eliminates alternative explanations for observed cross-cultural
282 G. Ekermans
differences. Such response styles may lead to invalid inferences in cross-cultural
research (Van Herk, Poortinga, & Verhallen, 2004) if left undetected.
Future research should also be aimed at the quantification of bias and equiva-
lence (Van de Vijver & Leung, 2000). Suspected biasing factors should be mea-
sured. For example, by including a social desirability measure together with
measures of the target construct in the design of a study, the presence or absence
of this type of bias may be confirmed/rejected. In addition, measuring contextual
factors (i.e., including explanatory variables) may assist in verifying (or rejecting)
particular interpretations of cross-cultural differences. This facilitates a move-
ment away from post-hoc, speculative, unvalidated interpretations, often found
in exploratory cross-cultural studies. A monotrait-multimethod research design
could also be used to empirically examine bias (Van de Vijver & Leung, 2000).
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... A higher score indicates less understanding of one's feelings and ability to verbally express feelings and greater alexithymia. The TAS-20 has been found to be a reliable and valid instrument and has been used widely in diverse cultures (Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994;Ekermans, 2009;Güleç, Kose, Citak, & Yazici, 2009;Le, Berenbaum, & Raghavan, 2002;Parker, Taylor, & Bagby, 1998;2003). ...
... Therefore, trait EI has vast implications in clinical (Hansen, Lloyd, & Stough, 2009), health (Martins, Ramalho, & Morin, 2010), occupational (Di Fabio & Saklofske, 2014;Furnham, 2009), and educational contexts (Petrides, Sanchez-Ruiz, Siegling, Saklofske, & Mavroveli, 2018). However, one area of EI research that remains partially unexplored involves cross-cultural investigations, which assess the generalizability of the construct in different cultures (Ekermans, 2009;Molander, Holmström, & Takšić, 2011). Moreover, cross-cultural investigations are typically characterized by a methodological limitation given that instruments from a single Western cultural background are translated to non-Western cultures. ...
... As suggested by Ekermans (2009), it is important to conduct psychometric analyses to test for measurement equivalence of EI instruments across different cultural groups, as the presence of bias and noninvariance has theoretical and practical relevance in assessment (e.g., Molander et al., 2011). In cross-cultural comparisons, biases introduce disturbances in assessment because latent variables are not measured in the same way across the different cultural groups, but also within-group assessment might be biased because the scale fails to cover the cultural variability of the construct in a specific group. ...
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... The trait model, suggested by Petrides and Furnham, is observed as a set of emotions correlated with selfperception and individual actions (Wood et al. 2009). According to Ekermans (2009), the mixed model proposed by Bar-On is the most complete, as it embraces the emotional and social aspects, personal skills and abilities, and non-cognitive capacities capable of aiding the adaptation to environmental demands through emotional regulation. ...
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... However, the cross-cultural investigations focusing on generalizability of similarities and differences in emotional intelligence across different populations are scarce (Ekermans, 2009). In Slovakia, EI research is scarce, and although the long-form adult version of the TEIQue has been previously examined in a Slovak sample (Kaliská & Nábělková, 2015b), to my knowledge, no previous study has evaluated the construct validity and factorial invariance of the short TEIQue version (TEIque-SF) across the two populations. ...
... To conclude, researchers have repeatedly emphasized the importance of determining whether the EI construct could be generalized to diverse groups in Western and Eastern cultures (e.g., Gohm, 2004;Ekermans, 2009), and previous studies have found that trait EI measures apply to both Western and Eastern populations (Koydemir and Schütz, 2012;Gökçen et al., 2014;Nozaki and Koyasu, 2016). However, it remains unclear whether the psychological processes underlying the EI construct differ for Western and Eastern populations. ...
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... The need to validate tests in the population in which they will be used to avoid cultural biases (Ekermans, 2009), the reduction in the number of TMMS-24 items in some studies to adapt it to the original model (Mart ın-Albo et al., 2010;Salguero et al., 2010), and the fact that there is no current evidence of the adaptation of emotional intelligence questionnaires to the Chilean adolescent population highlight the relevance of this work. Although the invariance of the three-dimensional model of the questionnaire has been previously analyzed, it has not been assessed in community adolescent populations, and the application of the model in different samples without establishing restrictions in the measurement parameters does not guarantee model stability in samples with different characteristics (i.e., sex or age). ...
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