Science of Self ™ Knowledge Centre

Models of Emotional Intelligence

May 7, 2016

There is great debate around who is the founder or creator of the field of Emotional Intelligence. Many people passionately debate the merits of one person's model as opposed to another, with whole websites dedicated to this subject. The important thing to note is that this is a young and ever expanding field. As everyone’s knowledge on the subject grows, so will our ability to refine and apply the models more effectively. The key is to keep an open mind and to be willing to accept the merits of each of the models, and apply what we can to our lives.

There are essentially two schools of thought on Emotional Intelligence and how it is defined:

  1. The mental “ability” models focus on emotions themselves and their interactions with thought. This is the model used by Mayer and Salovey.
  2. The “mixed” models treat mental abilities and a variety of other characteristics, such as motivation, states of consciousness and social activity, as a single entity as in those used by Bar-On and Goleman in their Emotional Intelligence models. Mixed models of Emotional Intelligence tend to be more broad in their definitions as compared to those mental ability models applied by researchers and theorists.

A central difference among models is that the mental ability models attempt to focus purely on emotion, whereas mixed models label a multitude of competencies that could be considered emotion or thought based.

The Human Performance Technology by DTS model (in collaboration with our partner TTI Success Insights) for our Emotional Quotient assessment is based on Goleman’s model of Emotional Intelligence.

Below is a brief summary of the three main models of Emotional Intelligence and how they differ.


John Mayer and Peter Salovey began writing about Emotional Intelligence in late 1980s, acknowledging that emotions and intellect are often thought of as opposites. They considered the consequences of a beneficial interaction between the two. Later, they were joined by David Caruso, a friend of Mayer.

In their mental ability model, they define Emotional Intelligence as "the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to access and/or generate feelings with thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth." Salovey, Mayer and Caruso have attempted to keep their definition research based to enable them to continue to refine their study in this field.

The Mayer/Salovey/Caruso ability model of Emotional Intelligence looks at two areas of Emotional Intelligence:

1. Experiential Emotional Intelligence (EEIQ) – which includes the ability to perceive, respond, and manipulate emotional information without necessarily understanding it.

2. Strategic Emotional Intelligence (SEIQ) – which includes the ability to understand and manage emotions without necessarily perceiving feelings well or fully experiencing them.

These two core areas of Emotional Intelligence are then broken into the “four branch model” (as it is often called). These include:

1. Perceiving Emotion – is the ability to identify and express emotions and emotional needs accurately to others. It is the ability to decode emotional signals in facial expressions, tone of voice and artistic expression. This is considered an experiential component of Emotional Intelligence, as it is about a person’s basic ability to process or “experience” emotional information.

2. Facilitating Thought – is the ability to use emotion to facilitate thinking, problem solving, reasoning and focus. This is about blending emotion and thinking while being aware of how emotion might be affecting your thoughts. This is also considered an experiential component of Emotional Intelligence.

3. Understanding Emotion – is defining complex emotional blends and understanding emotional transitions. This is the ability to understand how emotions might combine, change and manifest over time. This is considered a strategic component of Emotional Intelligence.

4. Managing Emotions – is the ability to manage emotions appropriately and successfully. It is the ability to be open to emotional information when important, and closed to it when it is not, then effectively include emotion into thought. This is considered a strategic component of Emotional Intelligence.

Mayer and Salovey (later Caruso) have developed a number of assessments to attempt to validate their theories and refine their thinking. The two most commonly referred to are the “Multi-branch Emotional Intelligence Scale” or “MEIS”, and later the “Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test” or “MSCEIT”. They continue to develop and research more tools and theories and are considered as some of the most prominent thought leaders in the Emotional Intelligence field.


Dr. Reuven Bar-On is a clinical psychologist and has been working in the Emotional Intelligence field for many years. He is considered as one of the field’s thought leaders, and has published many books and articles on the subject. The Bar-On model is considered a “mixed model” of Emotional Intelligence and is quite well known.

As at 10th December 2009 the website described the Bar-On Model of Emotional-Social Intelligence broadly as:

“According to the Bar-On model, emotional-social intelligence is a cross-section of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and facilitators that determine how well we understand and express ourselves, understand others and relate with them, and cope with daily demands, challenges and pressures. The emotional and social competencies, skills and facilitators included in this broad definition of the construct are based on the 5 meta-factors defined below, that were confirmed by a series of second order factor analyses in the development of the Bar-On psychometric measure of this construct.”

Again, from the website, this Bar-On model looks at five core factors and fifteen sub components:

1. Intrapersonal - relates to self-awareness and self-expression, governing our ability to be aware of our emotions and ourselves in general, to understand our strengths and weaknesses, and to express our feelings and ourselves non-destructively. It consists of sub factors including self-regard, emotional self-awareness, assertiveness, independence and self-actualisation.

2. Interpersonal - relates to our ability to be aware of others’ feelings, concerns and needs, and to be able to establish and maintain cooperative, constructive and mutually satisfying relationships. It consists of sub factors including empathy, social responsibility and interpersonal relationships.

3. Stress Management - relates to emotional management and controlling our ability to deal with emotions so that they work for us and not against us. It consists of sub factors including stress, tolerance, and impulse control.

4. Adaptability - relates primarily to change management i.e., how we cope with and adapt to personal and interpersonal change as well as change in our immediate environment. It consists of sub factors including reality testing, flexibility, and problem solving.

5. General Mood - relates to our level of self-motivation. It consists of sub factors including optimism and happiness.

The Bar-On model is the basis for the Bar-On EQ-i assessment. Reuven Bar-On continues to research and develop his model and theories around emotional intelligence. His work, like the others, is a valued contribution to the field.


The Goleman model of Emotional Intelligence will be discussed in more detail in coming posts. Goleman’s later writings in the field of Social and Emotional Intelligence have seen him rename the five original competencies, and collapse them into four:

1. Self-Awareness - emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, self-confidence.

2. Social Awareness - empathy, organisational awareness, service orientation.

3. Self-Management - self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, achievement orientation, initiative.

4. Social Skills - developing others, leadership, influence, communication, change catalyst, conflict management, building bonds, teamwork.

We have chosen to utilise the Goleman “mixed model” as the basis for our TTI Emotional Quotient, and thus our training. The Goleman model is relatively simple, yet powerful. It is easily applied in both a personal and professional setting, and tends to be more widely used and accepted in an organisational setting. At the same time, we must recognise, respect, and include the thoughts, contributions and commitment of other researchers and contributors in the field.

Topics: Emotional Intelligence

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."


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