Emotional Intelligence Overview

The Ability Model of Emotional Intelligence

Some Brief History 

The systematic study of emotional intelligence is often dated to the early 1990s, when a scientific article I wrote along Dr. Peter Salovey suggested that there existed an unrecognized but important human mental ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance thought. In our 1997 chapter, "What is Emotional Intelligence" (Mayer & Salovey, 1997), we introduced an expanded four-branch model that provided an updated definition and boundary of the problem-solving areas that the intelligence concerned. The areas were divided into four groups or "branches" as shown here in a reproduction of the original figure, Figure 1, from the article:

Figure 1 from Mayer & Salovey  (1997)


As we wrote at the time, the lower branch (Perception, Appraisal and Expression) represents relatively smaller, more discrete, and sometimes automatic/non-volutional skills; the uppermost branch represents the operation of larger more integrated systems. As one moves from left-to-right across the branches, the more challenging and sophisticated skills are to the right.

The figure was recently re-imagined and redrawn by Cindy Ko, Ph.D. candidate at Walden University. Her graphic  design is reproduced here with her permission and that of the Hachette Group (which now owns the copyright for the above figure on which it is based). 

The four branch model as re-imagined by Cindy Ko

Current Theory and Research

Since the 1997 model was introduced, we have updated and expanded the four-branch model to include more abilities within it. A revised version of the model can be found in the article "The Ability Model of Emotional  Intelligence: Principles and Updates" (Mayer, Caruso & Salovey, 2016). In particular,  Table 1 of that article, reproduced here, shows the more complete list of mental abilities.  For the discussion surrounding that and other updates, please see the complete article.

expanded and updated four branch model

The Original UNH Emotional Intelligence Website: Reorganized and Updated Documents

Our original UNH webpage about emotional intelligence was among the first online and publicly available sources of responsible information about emotional intelligence. Here, in revised form, are the central documents from that earlier website. (An overview of the revision process is provided below the main links). 

  • What is Emotional Intelligence?—An introduction to the theory of emotional intelligence with additional commentary on its measurement
  • Measuring Emotional Intelligence—More topics about emotional intelligence and focused in particular on the issues surrounding the measurement of emotional intelligence.
  • Controversies in Emotional Intelligence—Edited e-mail exchanges and posts about controversies concerning emotional intelligence. Although the exchanges took place in 2004, many of the controversies are still relevant to the field of EI today.
  • An EI slideshow of Key Images from the site—A brief accomapanying slideshow that provides some sense of what the original UNH EI website looked like, and a few of the key documents and ideas that will be discussed in this area of the website.
  • Individual Images Helpful to Visualizing the History of EI—Many of the same images as in the slideshow, as individual files.
  • About the (Original) Website—The remaining unique posts describe the website, its homepage, contact information and the editorial policy of the original site.
  • Materials on Measurement—Materials on measures of emotional intelligence specifically developed in the laboratory, and materials about other measures developed by the laboratory that were covered on the original EI site have been transferred to the "Tests & Measures" section of the present website and updated as needed.

Modifications Made in the Transition from the Original UNH Website to the Present Sections on Emotional Intelligence

The following documents represent a reconstruction and update of the earlier UNH Emotional Intelligence site and information that was available on it. The reconstruction includes all the major essays and e-mail exchanges with colleagues about the theory that were relevant to emotional intelligence. As we transferred the material to the present website, it was lightly edited. The edits were limited to:

  • Ensure all links were properly updated or proplerly referenced in APA style
  • Correct typographical and orthographical mistakes in the earlier texts.
  • Replace tables that had been formatted originally in HTML with formatting in MS Word (from which PDFs were made). During those edits, some tables were clarified or, if overly long, shortened to focus on what was important. For example, the tables reflecting types of data in the Measuring Emotional Intelligence section were updated and, in some instances, revised into bulleted lists; also, the table that included examples of hypothetical individuals who were low in personal intelligence was shortened to include fewer examples. 
  • The multiple individual posts on the original website were combined into the PDFs below. The first-level headings in the documents generally correspond to the names of the individual pages on the original website, with small exceptions.


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