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Mayer-Salovey Four Branch Model
of Emotional Intelligence

The Model in Detail

Jack Mayer's Version of the Four Branches

My Early (around 2000) Comments On The Model:

EQI Adaptation of the Mayer Salovey 4 Branch Model

April 2006 Note about Love, Need, and Hate

Problems With the Mainstream Concept of EI

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The 1997 Mayer-Salovey 4 Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence

In a 1997 article Mayer and Salovey listed what they call the four "branches" of emotional intelligence:

1. Perception, Appraisal and Expression of Emotion
2. Emotional Facilitation of Thinking
3. Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge
4. Reflective Regulation of Emotions to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

Below is a full copy of their chart or table which has much more detail about their thoughts.

In that 1997 article they say that the branches in the chart are:

"arranged from more basic psychological processes to higher, more psychologically integrated processes. For example, the lowest level branch concerns the (relatively) simple abilities of perceiving and expressing emotion. In contrast, the highest level branch concerns the conscious, reflective regulation of emotion."

They add that abilities that "emerge relatively early in development are to the left of a given branch; later developing abilities are to the right." They also say that, "people high in emotional intelligence are expected to progress more quickly through the abilities designated and to master more of them."

Jack Mayer's Version of the Four Branches

This was found on Jack Mayer's website:


The Four Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence

The four branch model of emotional intelligence describes four areas of capacities or skills that collectively describe many of areas of emotional intelligence [3].

More specifically, this model defines emotional intelligence as involving the abilities to:

  • accurately perceive emotions in oneself and others
  • use emotions to facilitate thinking
  • understand emotional meanings, and
  • manage emotions

This four-branch model represents what today has become called the ability model of emotional intelligence. It is a refinement of the first formal models and measures of emotional intelligence.

From Jack Mayer's website http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence/eiemotint2.htm


Last accessed March 2012

See also my early comments on their model

My early (around 2000) comments on their model:

I have a few concerns about their definition and some suggestions I would Jack Mayer and his colleagues to consider.

First, I would like to see them focus more on the idea that intelligence is potential. An infant can be intelligent, for example, without being able to read, write or take intelligence tests. In other words, he may have no demonstrable abilities as yet, but he may have extremely high potential ability. He simply has not had a chance to develop his potential and his intelligence into competencies which can be measured by any existing tests.

The word "ability" itself can have two meanings. First, it can mean potential, yet undeveloped ability. Second, it can mean potential which has been developed into something which can be demonstrated, measured or tested. At present it is impossible to measure pure potential, thus the Mayer Salovey Caruso tests (MEIS and MSCEIT) focus on only the second form of ability. (I suspect, though, that one day brain scanning devices will be able to tells us much more about a baby's potential.)

Second, their definition and the way they discuss EI in their writing does not address the fact that a child can start out with high innate emotional intelligence and then be emotionally damaged. (This is discussed in more details on the EI definitions page.

Third, I would like to see them emphasize that an emotionally intelligent person is capable of mastering an extensive vocabulary of what I call feeling words. By mastering I mean having the ability to not only perceive an extensive range of feelings in oneself and others, but also to quickly assign the most specific label to the feeling, for example in conversation with others or in self-reflection.

In their four branch model Mayer and Salovey do include the ability to express emotion, but the tests they and David Caruso designed only refer to a few emotions compared with the much broader available scope of feeling words which are available in the English language. (See my list for example)

Fourth, much of what is called emotional understanding is probably better called emotional knowledge. Knowledge can be taught and gained through experience, but intelligence represents potential before any learning has taken place. Of course, as Mayer and Salovey suggest in their model, this learning takes place faster and can go further when someone has more innate potential or "intelligence" in a particular area. One thing to remember, though, is that someone who is emotionally intelligent by birth, but who grows up in an emotionally dysfunctional environment, will "learn" unhealthy actions and thought patterns. Such a person will then appear to many as a teenager or adult lacking in emotional intelligence. Yet as I see it, this is true. The person is still emotionally intelligent. They are simply emotionally damaged. For more about this see the Dark Side of EI

Fifth, I am concerned with measuring emotional facilitation of thought and emotional management. I don't see how you can really do this with a paper and pencil test. The MSC team say they are measuring some of these things with their tests, but it is hard to say how much their test scores reflect actual ability in real life situations, or when under extreme stress. And these are the situations when highly developed emotional intelligence may be the most important.

Finally their definition is a bit too abstract for me when it comes to things like identifying emotion in art and music. I found this section of their CD ROM test a little hard to take seriously when it asks you to look at a graphic design and try to guess what emotions it is conveying. Therefore I would like to see them test for something like the ability to identify emotion in tone of voice or body language instead.


Please also see my page on EI tests

See also this note about love, need and hate

EQI Adaptation of the Mayer Salovey 4 Branch Model


1. Emotional Perception and Expression - the ability to accurately identify and express feelings
  • The ability for self-awareness; to be aware of your own feelings as they are occurring.
  • The ability to become emotionally literate. The ability to learn to identify and label specific feelings in yourself and others and the ability to clearly and directly communicate and discuss these emotions.

2. Use of Emotions - the ability to use your feelings constructively

  • The ability to let your feelings guide you to what is important to think about
  • The ability to use your feelings to help you decisions which are healthy for both you and the rest of the human race

3. Emotional Understanding - the ability to understand the meanings of emotions and how they can change

This includes the ability to understand...

  • The purpose of emotions; understanding their survival value to the species
  • The relationships between emotions; how and why they can change from one feeling to another
  • The emotions which lead to the behavior in yourself and others
  • The relationship between thoughts and feelings
  • The causes of emotions and their relationship to our human psychological needs, especially our unmet emotional needs.

4. Emotional Management - the ability to manage emotions for personal and social growth

  • The ability to take responsibility for one's own feelings and happiness
  • The ability to turn negative emotions into positive learning and growing opportunities
  • The ability to help others identify and benefit from their emotions

Four branch EI Model -- Mayer, J. D. & Salovey, P. (1997).  What is emotional intelligence?  In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (Eds).  Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Implications for Educators (pp. 3-31).  New York: Basic Books. 

April 2006 Note about love, need, and hate

In their model they say: Ability to understand complex feelings: simultaneous feelings of love and hate... " but I'd say that it would be more accurate to say "need and hate."

When we need someone and they aren't doing what we want or aren't giving us what we need, we may start to feel hatred towards them. But this is based on our need for love from them. Not the love we feel for them.

I don't agree that we can love and hate someone at the same time. I think the hate temporarily displaces the love. But I do believe we can need them and hate them at the same time.

There is a common expression which says "There is a thin line between love and hate," but I believe it is more accurate to say "There is a thin line between need and hate"

S. Hein

Just a note to say that many times when I have accessed the Wikipedia page on emotional intelligence, they have not mentined the four branch model.  








The Four Branches of Emotional Intelligence


The Four Branches of Emotional Intelligence

by Mayer and Salovey

1. Perception, Appraisal and Expression of Emotion
2. Emotional Facilitation of Thinking
3. Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge
4. Reflective Regulation of Emotions to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

1. Perception, Appraisal and Expression of Emotion

Ability to identify emotion in one's physical states, feelings, and thoughts. Ability to identify emotions in other people, designs, artwork, etc. through language, sound, appearance, and behavior. Ability to express emotions accurately, and to express needs related to those feelings. Ability to discriminate between accurate and inaccurate, or honest vs. dishonest expressions of feeling.

2. Emotional Facilitation of Thinking

Emotions prioritize thinking by directing attention to important information. Emotions are sufficiently vivid and available that they can be generated as aids to judgment and memory concerning feelings. Emotional mood swings change the individual's perspective from optimistic to pessimistic, encouraging consideration of multiple points of view. Emotional states differentially encourage specific problem-solving approaches such as when happiness facilitates inductive reasoning and creativity.

3. Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge

Ability to label emotions and recognize relations among the words and the emotions themselves, such as the relation between liking and loving. Ability to interpret the meanings that emotions convey regarding relationships, such as that sadness often accompanies a loss. Ability to understand complex feelings: simultaneous feelings of love and hate or blends such as awe as a combination of fear and surprise. Ability to recognize likely transitions among emotions, such as the transition from anger to satisfaction or from anger to shame.

4. Reflective Regulation of Emotion to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

Ability to stay open to feelings, both those that are pleasant and those that are unpleasant. Ability to reflectively engage or detach from an emotion depending upon its judged informativeness or utility. Ability to reflectively monitor emotions in relation to oneself and others, such as recognizing how clear, typical, influential or reasonable they are. Ability to manage emotion in oneself and others by moderating negative emotions and enhancing pleasant ones, without repressing or exaggerating information they may convey.


Source: What is Emotional Intelligence, by John Mayer and Peter Salovey. Chapter 1, pp. 10,11 in Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Educational Implications, by Peter Salovey and David Sluyter. 1997.)