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Does Personal Intelligence really exist?
on April 16, 2015
John Mayer is widely recognised, along with Peter Salovey as the co-inventor of emotional intelligence. They published their seminal article in 1990 arguing that some people understood a logic about emotions and used it to promote their well being while to other people this remained a mystery. The concept of emotional intelligence was then popularised by Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it matters more than IQ. Mayer and his colleagues then went to develop the MSCEIT, which is the most widely used test of Emotional Intelligence if also the most widely criticised.
In this book Mayer argues that there is another intelligence known which he describes personal intelligence which enables people to analyse both their own and other people’s personalities.
Mayer begins by noting that the first obstacle to proving the existence of personal intelligence is the widespread belief among academic psychologists that personality is an illusion does not matter. Instead of personality it was argued that people adjust how they act in different situations and what was important in determining a person’s behaviour was the social influences. This became known as the situationist perspective and was widely accepted following the publication in 1968 of Personality and Assessment by Walter Mischel, famous for the Marshmallow Study. The support for this argument was a variety of studies that purportedly demonstrated personality had little effect on a person’s behaviour. The problem was that subsequent studies concluded the same result with social influences!
In 2007 Mayer began to develop a theory of personal intelligence. Mayer first defines “intelligence” as “a group of related activities that are invoked (1) when the problems involved are valued; (2) only some people can solve them and, (3) the ability to do so leads to specific accomplishments.” In his book he then provides an excellent summary of the development of intelligence modelling and testing beginning with Binet in 1905. The first IQ tests evaluated verbal intelligence but in 1939 David Wechsler developed his perceptual intelligence tests. The high correlation between the two tests provided support for a general intelligence factor g and a measure of that in an IQ score.
Howard Gardiner in the early 1980s then proposed his theory of multiple intelligences which became widely accepted particularly by educationalists even though empirical support was lacking. Gardiner’s model was the driver for concept of Emotional Intelligence but Mayer is the first to admit that EQ concept, which is about feelings, was wrongly extended into discussions about character. Instead Mayer argues that there is a ‘personal’ intelligence which allows people to analyse the personalities of themselves and others. He and colleagues have gone on to develop TOPI or the Test of Personal Intelligence. Again it suffers from the basic paradox as the MSCEIT. Although promoted as an ability test, the MSCEIT is unlike standard IQ tests in that its items do not have objectively correct responses. Among other challenges, the consensus scoring criterion means that it is impossible to create items (questions) that only a minority of respondents can solve, because, by definition, responses are deemed emotionally "intelligent" only if the majority of the sample has endorsed them.
Mayer then argues for the existence of Personal Intelligence throughout the book with a series of case studies. The range of studies is very interesting and quite staggering but comes across as several reviewers have noted as fragmented. Also in many of the examples I kept thinking that they did not demonstrate Personal Intelligence but General Intelligence.
My real problem with the book is that it makes no mention of temperament – what are the core emotions in your personality that you are genetically born with. Based on a study of 11,000 identical twins nature is around twice as important as nurture in the development of personality. I have found the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament model of seven core emotions the most practical tool for people to use. (The five most common Humm components correspond with the Five Factor Model.) For example you can take a demo version of the TOPI test here. If you are familiar with the Humm the TOPI test is very easy to answer.
If you want to learn about the Humm download a free white paper on using Emotional Intelligence in either selling or management . http://www.emotionalintelligencecourse.com/eq-free-white-papers/
My e-books available in Kindle format explain the technique in more detail.