Annotated Bibliography of Personal Intelligence Articles


Here is a list of publications from the Mayer Personality Laboratory most directly related to Personal Intelligence. Each article is followed by a brief description of its contents.

Mayer, J. D. (2008). Personal Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 27, 209-232.

It seems counter-intuitive that psychologists might have neglected the possible existence of a personal intelligence–an intelligence about personality–for more than a century. For that reason, the article begins with a consideration of the intellectual obstacles to accepting that such an intelligence might exist. I then move on to describing four areas of problem-solving that are involved in personal intelligence (in the article, they are referred to as four “abilities” but I now believe “areas of problem solving” is a better description). A figure summarizes the areas:

The article concludes with a discussion of why personal intelligence might matter.

Mayer, J. D. (2009). Personal intelligence expressed: A theoretical analysis. Review of General Psychology, 13, 46-58.

This follow-up on the original theoretical article draws together more research that supported the possible existence of a personal intelligence. Integral to my purpose in writing this second article was to identify the kinds of problems people need to solve to understand personality, and also to look for descriptions of the kinds of people who could successfully solve those problems.

Mayer, J. D., Wilson, R., & Hazelwood, M. (2010). Personal intelligence expressed: A multiple case study of business leaders.  Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 30,201-224.

In this 2010 article Richard Wilson, Maia Hazelwood and I explored the possibility that we can recognize a person’s level of personal intelligence from her comments, life course, and interests. We carried out a multiple case study of eight US business leaders who also were public figures, looking for biographical data about them, interviews they had given, and other people’s reactions to them. From that information, we identified leaders who appeared high in personal intelligence and those who appeared lower. The article makes the point that we can’t know if someone lacks personal intelligence, we can only know that they appear that way at times in public. It may be more possible to identify who is high in personal intelligence. Acknowledging that the number of observations (the eight cases we studied) was very small and that perhaps the results we obtained were a matter of chance, there was considerable agreement among the observers as to business leaders’ overall personal intelligence. More crucially, the study provided some intriguing suggestions as to what people high and low in personal intelligence might  be like and how they differed in their behaviors.

Mayer, J. D., Panter, A. T. & Caruso, D. R. (2012). Does personal intelligence exist? Evidence from a new ability-based measure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 94, 124-140.

Winner, “2012-2013 Award for Excellence in Research” Mensa Education and Research Foundation

In this article, Abigail Panter, David Caruso and I reported for the first time on our Test of Personal Intelligence (TOPI): a method for testing whether personal intelligence exists. The test consisted (in its final form) of 134 usable items and was administered to several hundred college students. The results supported the idea that there were reliable individual differences in understanding personality and that personal intelligence could be viewed as a unitary mental ability.

Mayer, J. D. (2014). Personal intelligence: The power of personality and how it shapes our lives. New York: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus & Giroux.