Petrides and colleagues (see also Petrides, 2009) proposed a conceptual distinction between the ability based model and a trait based model of EI. Trait EI is "a constellation of emotion-related self-perceptions located at the lower levels of personality". In lay terms, trait EI refers to an individual's self-perceptions of their emotional abilities. This definition of EI encompasses behavioral dispositions and self perceived abilities and is measured by self report, as opposed to the ability based model which refers to actual abilities, which have proven highly resistant to scientific measurement. Trait EI should be investigated within a personality framework. An alternative label for the same construct is trait emotional self-efficacy.
The trait EI model is general and subsumes the Goleman and Bar-On models discussed above. Petrides et al. are major critics of the ability-based model and the MSCEIT arguing that they are based on "psychometrically meaningless" scoring procedures (e.g., Petrides, Furnham, & Mavroveli, 2007).
The conceptualization of EI as a personality trait leads to a construct that lies outside the taxonomy of human cognitive ability. This is an important distinction in as much as it bears directly on the operationalization of the construct and the theories and hypotheses that are formulated about it.