Salovey and Mayer’s (1990) 10 Original Facets of Emotional Intelligence

Emotion is a relatively difficult concept to clearly delineate but it is generally accepted that it is an organised mental response that includes physiological, experiential and cognitive aspects.  Emotions are largely, but not exclusively, related to interpersonal relationships and specific emotions are relatively resistant to cultural and individual differences, although these can affect the way in which emotions are expressed or perceived.

The 10 original facets of Emotional Intelligence proposed by Salovey and Mayer

Personal intelligence is defined as the feelings and emotions of oneself and the ability to understand and interpret these feelings in order to guide behaviour.  This can be expanded into emotional intelligence by including the application of this knowledge to other people and also to regulate actions based on it.

The term emotional intelligence (EI) per se was coined in 1990 by Salovey and Mayer.  The term EI applies to an ability to process emotional information in an appropriate way, with a balance being achieved between emotion and reason.

The 10 original facets of Emotional Intelligence proposed by Salovey and Mayer

The initial facets of emotional intelligence, as originally proposed by Salovey and Mayer in 1990 are outlined in Table 1 below, together with the way in which these facets are understood now:

Original label

Current label


Sample item

Emotion in the self: verbal Recognition of emotion in the self Being in touch with one’s feelings and describing those feelings in words If I am upset, I know the cause of it.
Emotion in the self: nonverbal Nonverbal emotional expression Communicating one’s feelings to others through bodily (i.e., nonverbal) expression I like to hug those who are emotionally close to me.
Emotion in others: verbal Recognition of emotion in others Attending to others’ nonverbal emotional cues, such as facial expressions and tone of voice I can tell how people are feeling even if they never tell me.
Emotion in others: nonverbal Empathy Understanding others’ emotions by relating them to one’s own experiences I am sensitive to the feelings of other people.
Regulation of emotion in the self Regulation of emotion in the self Controlling one’s own emotional states, particularly in emotionally arousing situations I can keep myself calm even in highly stressful situations.
Regulation of emotion in others Regulation of emotion in others Managing others’ emotional states, particularly in emotionally arousing situations Usually, I know what it takes to turn someone else’s boredom
Flexible planning Intuition versus reason Using emotions in the pursuit of life goals; basing decisions on feelings over logic I often use my intuition in planning for the future.
Creative thinking Creative thinking Using emotions to facilitate divergent thinking People think my ideas are daring.
Mood redirected attention Mood redirected attention Interpreting strong—usually negative—emotions in a positive light Having strong emotions forces me to understand myself.
Motivating emotions Motivating emotions Pursuing one’s goals with drive, perseverance, and optimism I believe I can do almost anything I set out to do.

However these 10 facets of emotional intelligence have been simplified into the 4-branch mental ability model, which has 4 main facets:

  1. Verbal and non verbal appraisal and expression of emotion in the self and others,
  2. The regulation of emotion in the self and others,
  3. Understanding and reasoning about emotions, and
  4. The utilization of emotion to facilitate thought.

The fundamental difference between the facets is that the former 3 involve reasoning about emotions, whereas the final one uses emotions to enhance reasoning.  The 4-branch model is yet to be universally accepted and some researchers change the names of the branches to focus on those aspects that are believed to be more relevant to their arguments.  For instance Lopes (2005) highlights the 4 interrelated abilities of EI as:

  • Perceiving emotions,
  • Using emotions to facilitate thinking,
  • Understanding emotions, and
  • Regulating one’s own emotions and those of others.

These are essentially the same as the 4-branch model but place less emphasis on the methods in which it is possible to perceive emotions.

Whilst some researchers are quite specific about what EI involves, others view it as more elusive – with ‘fuzzy boundaries’.  This does present a problem for the overall concept of EI, as a lack of agreement about what should be included and how to assess these aspects, means that reliable and replicable measures are not in place.

An individual’s emotional intelligence affects their moral reasoning.  It has been highlighted that there are different aspects to emotional intelligence, demonstrated by the strength of some individual’s abilities in some areas coupled with severe deficits in other areas.  For example some individuals may be very self confident in all that they do and say but have not the ability to realize that, if they get caught out in something that they say, there will be emotional consequences.  These individuals are lacking the perception / appraisal of emotion according to the 4-branch model.

EI also involves problem solving – the 4-branch model’s utilization of emotion to facilitate thought.  In addition the ability to rationalize analyse a problem differs according to the prevailing emotion and feelings.  Different emotions alter the ability to concentrate and attend to a problem.  For example emotions centered on danger enhance the ability to analyse a problem, for obvious safety reasons.  Similarly emotions that utilize memory also enhance the ability to problem solve.  By contrast strong feelings of emotion such as happiness and grief impede the ability to analyse problems, as the individual is less able to concentrate in a focused way.  An individuals EI can therefore be influenced by situation which has implications within a work situation as it would be logical to try to minimize the occurrence of strong emotions during problem solving tasks.

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