John D. Mayer, the renowned psychologist who co-developed the groundbreaking theory of emotional intelligence, now draws on decades of research to introduce another paradigm-shifting idea: that in order to become our best selves, we use an even broader intelligence—which he calls personal intelligence—to understand our own personality and the personalities of the people around us.
In Personal Intelligence, Mayer explains that we are naturally curious about the motivations and inner worlds of the people we interact with every day. Some of us are talented at perceiving what makes our friends, family, and coworkers tick. Some of us are less so. Mayer reveals why, and shows how the most gifted “readers” among us have developed “high personal intelligence.” Mayer’s theory of personal intelligence brings together a diverse set of findings—previously regarded as unrelated—that show how much variety there is in our ability to read other people’s faces; to accurately weigh the choices we are presented with in relationships, work, and family life; and to judge whether our personal life goals conflict or go together well. He persuasively argues that our capacity to problem-solve in these varied areas forms a unitary skill.
Illustrating his points with examples drawn from the lives of successful college athletes, police detectives, and musicians, Mayer shows how people who are high in personal intelligence (open to their inner experiences, inquisitive about people, and willing to change themselves) are able to anticipate their own desires and actions, predict the behavior of others, and—using such knowledge—motivate themselves over the long term and make better life decisions. And in outlining the many ways we can benefit from nurturing these skills, Mayer puts forward an essential message about selfhood, sociability, and contentment. Personal Intelligence is an indispensable book for anyone who wants to better comprehend how we make sense of our world.
"Mayer fills his book with ingenious studies of how people judge others . . . [and] confines himself to invariably stimulating insights backed by solid scientific research, so readers looking to understand the human condition will certainly enjoy this book."
"Innovative . . . Mayer’s new theory of personal intelligence is a welcome starting point for analyzing 'how people think about themselves and one another.'"
"It’s always exciting when an original psychological theory comes along, offering new perspectives on identity. In a crowded world where much depends on social interaction, such tools are irresistible…Mayer shines when recounting the history of psychology—colorfully detailing crucial studies, milestones, and observations."
—Spirituality & Health
"Mayer’s book is a deep and intriguing read into how our personalities evolve from infancy to adulthood . . . Mayer’s insights challenge us to broaden our understanding of what it means to be successful in our society. They underscore the importance of personality—how we learn to know ourselves and how we act on that understanding."
"I find Mayer’s optimism heartening and his theory convincing: Strengthening personal intelligence could certainly improve communication and understanding in professional and personal relationships . . . I realized personal intelligence – though I’ve never called it that before – is key to reading about both fictional characters and real people."
"Mayer makes his case for personal intelligence by synthesizing decades of scholarship, supporting it with examples of high achievers from Ludwig van Beethoven to the late Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, and suggesting how people can improve their own personal intelligence."
“John D. Mayer has done so much to get us to think about human personality in new ways, from his theoretical models to his empirical research on emotional intelligence (on which I have been thrilled to collaborate). With Personal Intelligence, Mayer once again challenges us—arguing that there is a set of skills that may determine what sets successful people apart from those who seem oblivious to the needs and desires of those around them. He is a clear thinker and a beautiful writer, and his arguments compel us to broaden our understanding of what constitutes an intelligent individual.”
—Peter Salovey, president and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, Yale University
“This lively book vividly illustrates the importance of personality and the judgments we make of one another. John D. Mayer surveys a wide range of classic and up-to-the-minute modern research, along with engaging personal histories, to make a compelling case in support of his innovative theory of personal intelligence.”
—David C. Funder, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, and author of The Personality Puzzle
“John D. Mayer takes us on a comprehensive journey through his theory of personal intelligence. Along the way, he shows just how vital personal intelligence is to understanding ourselves as well as navigating our social world. Making sense of others is an essential skill, and Personal Intelligence shows us how we use it, when we use it, and why it matters.”
—Elaine Fox, director of the Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience and author of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain
John D. Mayer is a professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire and a key innovator in intelligence research. He has written more than 125 scientiﬁc articles, books, and psychological tests, including the internationally known Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT™). He has lectured around the world and has appeared on NPR and BBC-TV. His work has been covered in The New York Times, Time, The Washington Post, and The New Republic. He lives in New Hampshire.