What’s in the Book?

The theory of Personal Intelligence states that people possess a broad intelligence they use to problem-solve about their own personality and the personalities of the people around them. The origins of the book, “Personal Intelligence,” reach back to 2008, when I introduced the theory of personal intelligence in a series of academic articles.

The book, “Personal Intelligence,” was written with the general, educated reader in mind. The narrative is roughly 210 pages in length, with an additional 40 pages of supporting notes and an index at the end—about 270 pages in all. Within the book, I describe the rationale for why personal intelligence exists, how personal intelligence works, and the social implications of the intelligence.

The Beginning of the Book

The book’s Introduction spells out why it took so long to formulate and explore the possible existence of a personal intelligence—an intelligence about personality. I discuss cultural teachings and scientific misunderstandings that argue against the possibility of any such intelligence. Chapter 1 discusses the foundations of the theory, drawing on the history of intelligence testing including my experience in 1990, with Professor Peter Salovey, of introducing the theory of emotional intelligence.

Areas of Problem-Solving about Personality

Over Chapters 2 through 5, I describe how we use our personal intelligence to identify clues to personality, and use those clues to construct accurate accounts of ourselves and other people. I also examine how we use personality-related information to make decisions in our lives. In each chapter I describe scientific studies relevant to the areas of problem-solving about personality, and draw on research from my own lab to show how abilities at such problem-solving fit together into a coherent intelligence. I illustrate the key ideas with examples from people’s lives to show how they play out in real world contexts.

Personal Intelligence Across the Lifespan

In Chapters Six and Seven, I examine how personal intelligence emerges in childhood, develops in adolescence, and how mature adults apply personal intelligence to guide their lives over time.

The “Big Think”

In the final chapter of the book, I look at the broader personal and social implications of the theory. Do we need to change how we talk about other people’s character? What are the economic benefits of evaluating people for jobs? How do politicians use—and sometimes misunderstand—personal intelligence.

I hope readers will encounter a new way of looking at themselves and the people around them, marvel at this skill we all share, learn some new techniques with which to understand personality, and appreciate the diversity and beauty of our personalities.