The State of the Art – The Big 3 Models of EI

To give us a way to get our hands around this idea of emotional intelligence, we humans create sets of competencies, or models. Think of them as being the equivalent of your emotional musculature.emotional musculature

Like muscles, emotional competencies work together. If something isn’t “pulling it’s weight” – if one of your competencies is underdeveloped – then it puts more stress on the others.

For example, just as a strained bicep will put more stress on the other arm muscles, difficulty being assertive can put pressure on your impulse control.


Like muscles, emotional competencies can be isolated and strengthened.


Like muscles, emotional competencies are not dependable if not used. This is part brain physiology (neural connections that strengthen and weaken), and part confidence.

The 3 Dominant EI Models

They each have positives and negatives. Each has its own assessment test.

1. The Mayer-Salovey, which is foundational in that it was first and everything else seems to be rooted here. It is also comparatively simple.

Get an overview here:  Mayer-Salovey Four Branch Model.

The assessment is the MSCEIT (Mayer-Salovey-Carruso Emotional Intelligence Test). Taking it is an interesting and worthwhile experience. You can find a local resource to take it, or get certified to administer it, through the owner of the MSCEIT, MHS.

2. The Bar-On model, which is significantly more detailed and complex than the Mayer-Salovey.  Of the big three models, I find the Bar-On the most useful and the most acceptable to my clients. Original Bar-On Model

Access to the Bar-On assessment, called the EQi, can also be found through MHS. (Note: The EQi has been changed to reflect changes in the original Bar-On model made by MHS.)

3. The Goleman model, which appeals to business people and legitimized EI in popular culture.  Original Goleman Model.

The Goleman assessment is now owned by The Hay Group, is focused almost exclusively on organizational leadership, and called the ESCI. It uses a multi-rater system, and thus requires the cooperation of others for completion.

I find the Human Dimension very similar to other leadership competency models, and evaluate it in that context rather than in comparison with the Mayer-Salovey and Bar-On.The construction is varied in scope, with simpler competencies such as “Emotional Self-Awareness” and more complex behavioral sets such as “Change Catalyst” given equal weight and placement.

In general, Mayer-Salovey disciples consider the other two models to be pseudo-science.The Bar-On disciples consider the Goleman to be pseudo-science.The Goleman disciples generally appear not to care, probably because they have a huge advantage in the popular marketplace.

Here’s a simple chart from another EI site that compares the three assessments:  EI Assessment Chart