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Conception and Appraisal of Personal Intelligence


An integrated model of intelligence is proposed based on Thorndike's classical social intelligence, Gardner's conception of personal intelligence in his MI theory, Goleman's EQ, and Chinese cultural point of view. The Personal Intelligence Inventory (PII) was developed and based on three dimensions: intrapersonal (self-awareness, self-retrospection, self-reward, and self-adaptation); interpersonal (empathy, respect, amiability, and guiding); interactive (humor, tolerance, appropriate role-playing, and conflict solving). The PII items are situation-oriented with three forms: Form A (multiple choice questions), Form B (open-ended questions), Form C (individual experience-based questions). The test-retest reliability of PII is satisfactory. Some PI differences between males and females and between gifted and regular pupils were found.

Multiple intelligences, successful intelligence, personal intelligence, gifted pupil, regular pupil
New Frontier of intelligence

Recently, there have been many new insights on the research of intelligence. Not only has the concept of intelligence been extended but also the traditional assessment of intelligence has been challenged tremendously. Among these studies, two models are specially valued. One is Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner's (1983, 1993) Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The other is Yale University Professor Robert J. Sternberg's (1985, 1988) Triarchic Theory of Intelligence and his concept of Successful Intelligence (Sternberg, 1996) which has been presented lately. They both claimed that the intelligence assessed by traditional IQ tests can not portray the complete intelligence itself and is only related to the ability of academic achievement. It cannot predict the achievement of future career and the fulfillment of life. Gardner and Sternberg both have been seeking the useful intelligence in daily life. Gardner(1983) constructed seven components of intelligence, including linguistic ability, musical ability, logical-mathematical ability, bodily-kinesthetic ability, spatial ability, interpersonal ability, and intrapersonal ability (the last two are called personal intelligence). Sternberg (1985, 1988) defined intelligence from three aspects--componential, contextual, and experiential. In the book, Successful Intelligence, Sternberg (1996) indicated that successful intelligence is combined with academic intelligence, creative intelligence, and practical intelligence. People cannot succeed in their real life only through academic intelligence (analytical intelligence).

Among Gardner's seven abilities, the linguistic, logical-mathematical, and spatial ones are commonplaces (linguistic, mathematical, and spatial abilities are common components of various intelligence tests, especially the group ones). The new insight he brought to intelligence is that he included the musical, bodily-kinesthetic and personal (including interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence) as components of intelligence, which can be developed individually and merged with the other intelligence. The most special one among these intelligences is personal intelligence which, in the Western society, usually belongs to how to be a person (personality) instead of how to handle things (ability). I appreciate this excellent idea that knowing oneself and the others and loving oneself and the others are not only a virtue but also an ability. I also think that this idea contains very much "Chinese flavor". It seems to have existed in the Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism in particular, for a very long time. There is a wonderful saying in our ancient book, Tsai Ken Tan, "Being perspicacious to things around makes knowledge everywhere; being adept in human relationship makes a good writing." So, what is knowledge? What is a good writing? They are simply "handling personal affairs reasonably and sensibly"! Doesn't "handling personal affairs reasonably and sensibly" mean "personal intelligence"? Knowledge can be advanced to be wisdom by means of personal intelligence which helps people handle things reasonably and sensibly (Wu, 1994). I really think that the focus of gifted education should not be on imparting knowledge but should be on promoting wisdom. If we want to advance knowledge to wisdom, we have to do "extra work" on it. On this aspect, Gardner's perspective gives us good direction. Recently, Emotional Intelligence (Goleman, 1995; Salovey & Mayer, 1990) has attracted very much public attention. The concept of Emotional Intelligence is closely related to Gardner's theory of personal intelligence. They are very much in common. But these thoughts and skills originated from the classical Chinese culture appear to be neglected in current Chinese societies (Preface of Chinese version of EQ, forwarded by Goleman and translated by Chang, 1996; Wei, 1991).

Sternberg's (1985; 1988) Triarchic Theory of Intelligence took into account both sides of an individual's capacity and his/her surrounding environment, and their interaction as well. Furthermore, it analyzed the components of intelligence from the viewpoint of metacognition and information processing, which gave emphasis on "process" and "practicality". From his conception stated in Successful Intelligence, Sternberg (1996) stressed that an individual with a successful career knows his/her own strengths and weaknesses and, therefore, can continue his/her self-enhancement; his/her success does not have much to do with his/her academic achievement. This conception was like a stunning blow to the traditional conception of intelligence of which the validity criterion used to be academic achievement. So, it is a very insightful viewpoint and very meaningful for guiding our educational process to the right track.

Gardner and Sternberg both view the development of intelligence as dynamic but not static. This dynamics of intelligence was also highlighted in another Harvard psychologist David Perkins' (1995) book, in which he described as "learnable intelligence". In fact, there are some experimental research on Gardner's (1993) and Sternberg's (1996) constructs of intelligence, which has made initial steps on promotion of their constructs of intelligence. However, on the aspect of personal intelligence, though some discussions have been made, the empirical studies are limited.

The Implications of Non-academic Intelligence

Social intelligence, practical intelligence, and personal intelligence are non-academic intelligence in nature and are very much interrelated but still different in some ways.

The term and the concept of social intelligence has been initiated by eminent educational psychologist E.L. Thorndike (1920). According to Sternberg (1985), social intelligence is a cognitive ability of social learning, independent from academic intelligence. Although many researchers, including Thorndike (1920), Strang (1930), Sternberg (1985), and Gardner (1983), define intelligence differently in some way, they all basically think that social intelligence is an ability of adaptation in social life and interpersonal relationship, which includes:

  1. Ability of being aware of the other person's thoughts through observing their behaviors.
  2. Ability of establishing friendly relationship with others.
  3. Understanding the social norm and behaving appropriately in a social setting.
  4. Ability of adjusting to a new environment.
  5. Ability of getting involved in social activities.
  6. Ability of adapting to society for survival.
  7. Ability of self-understanding and retrospection.

Sternberg (1988) divided ability of social cognition into social intelligence and practical intelligence. Although he admitted that social intelligence, which includes abilities in adaptability, sociability, and establishing relationship with others, can be part of practical intelligence, he still insisted that these two types of intelligence are different. Social intelligence emphasizes ability of social involvement and cognition of social morality, which are related to "human beings". Practical intelligence stresses more on ability of doing jobs and making decisions, which are more related to "things." In other words, social intelligence is the ability of dealing with "personal" relationship, and practical intelligence is the ability of managing "things".

Practical intelligence is a cognitive/learning ability different from academic ability. It is an ability of dealing with trivial things happening in daily life. The problems that we encounter every day are unorganized and chaotic. To solve these problems, you have to use the information you have at hand and make a subjective judgment or decision. Usually there is not only one way to solve the problems. Unlike academic intelligence, there is no single or standard right answer in this case.

As to personal intelligence, one component of Gardner's (1983) multiple intelligences, it consists of intrapersonal intelligence and interpersonal intelligence. The multiple intelligences include:

  1. Linguistic Intelligence: This is an ability to use languages to transmit information, facilitate, and entertain others. Poets, novelists, editors, and journalists all need this ability.
  2. Musical Intelligence: It is an ability to enjoy musical rhythm, performance, and composition. Music performers and composers usually possess this talent.
  3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: This is an ability to operate symbols orderly or the relationship within sentences. Individuals who have this intelligence could properly be mathematicians and scientists.
  4. Spatial Intelligence: This is an ability to sense, create and balance on visual arts and spatial performance. Artists and engineers usually have this predisposition.
  5. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: This is an ability to perform in sports and performing arts. Sportsmen, actors, and dancers tend to have this intelligence.
  6. Intrapersonal Intelligence: This is an ability to understand one's own feelings, dreams, and ideas, and to self-retrospect and self-control, as well. Novelists and religious usually have this predisposition.
  7. Interpersonal Intelligence: This is an ability to know other persons and get along with them. Individuals with this intelligence fit in the career of teaching, social work, and salesmen.

Recently, Gardner has proposed the 8th intelligence - the naturist intelligence (Glock, Wertz, & Meyer, 1999; Gardner, 1999), which is an ability to understand, appreciate, and enjoy the natural world. Persons who exhibit strength in this intelligence are likely to be a biologist, gardener, and national park guide. The traditional intelligence tests mainly assess linguistic, logical-mathematical, and spatial intelligence. Those tests don't usually value bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, and interpersonal intelligence, which exist in our right hemisphere of brain. Therefore, people should not get frustrated if the results of traditional intelligence tests show that their intelligence is not high. His or her potentials related to creative arts and practical intelligence probably are the treasures that have not yet been dug out.

As a matter of fact, Gardnerer's intrapersonal intelligence and interpersonal intelligence are much the same as the social intelligence or emotional intelligence advocated by many scholars in the field of intelligence. For example, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is also an intelligence dealing with personal affairs, but not the intelligence to deal with things. Individuals with this kind of intelligence are more capable of self-examination and self-assertiveness. They are more likely to establish good relationship with others, accustom to social life, and have excellent performance in society.

Personal Intelligence as the Core Part of Successful Intelligence

Integrating Gardner (1983, 1993) and Sternberg's (1985, 1988, 1996) constructs of intelligence, the writer has proposed an integrated construct to illustrate the relationship between a successful career and a successful intelligence, in which personal intelligence is the core component (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Relationship Successful Life and Successful Intellogenc

According to Figure 1, there are four types of intelligence that lead to a successful career (a successful job and content life): The traditional intelligence (or named academic intelligence or analytic intelligence) and the other three non-academic intelligence-personal intelligence, practical intelligence, and creative intelligence. A balanced development among these four types of intelligence can make a successful career and fulfillment of life.

There is a close relationship between academic intelligence and achievement on different academic subjects. Different kinds of academic intelligence can influence achievement on different subjects, such as linguistic intelligence for literature, logical-mathematical intelligence for math and science, musical intelligence for music, spatial intelligence for fine arts, and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence for sports, dancing, and drama. Academic intelligence is the basic requirement of a successful career, but it is not sufficient.

Practical intelligence belongs to the field of cognition. It is an ability to apply knowledge to daily life.

Creative intelligence is "what produces products in the first place and keeps them coming out," (Sternberg, 1996, p.141) which includes creative thinking (cognition) and creative attitude (feeling). Sternberg (1996) believes that creative intelligence and practical intelligence have more impact on career achievement than does academic intelligence (traditional intelligence). The importance of the creative intelligence is that it is not only different from the other three types of intelligence but can also be integrated to produce stronger power or concrete effect, such as being integrated with the executive ability of practical intelligence to make a creative problem-solving.

Personal intelligence may refer to as social intelligence or emotional intelligence which involves intrapersonal intelligence (self-awareness, self-retrospection, self-regard, and self-adaptation), interpersonal intelligence (empathy, respecting, amiability, and guiding), and interactive intelligence (humorous, tolerance, appropriate role-playing, and conflict-solving). Personal intelligence can be described as core of requirements of a successful career and analyst of the other constructs of intelligence.

Gifted education in Taiwan, similar to regular education, also emphasizes more on assessment of academic intelligence and promotion of academic achievement than on cultivation and promotion of the non-academic intelligence (e.g., social, emotional, and creative abilities). This is not only because of the traditional values on intellectualism and academic achievement but because of the difficulty in the assessment and the lack of knowledge in cultivating and promoting non-academic intelligence. Gardner (1983; 1993) and Sternberg (1985; 1996) indicated that individuals who have outstanding academic achievement and high IQ (traditional IQ) are not necessarily outstanding in their future careers. On the other hand, non-academic intelligence can predict the future more validly. So, why should we continue to do our educational investment solely with this way (although it is hard to say that this is a mistake in investment)? Personal intelligence, creative intelligence and practical intelligence, which are more influential to a successful career, should be valued as much as academic intelligence. Because personal intelligence has its root in classical Chinese philosophy, Confucianism in particular, its importance is increasing day by day in our society. However, the empirical studies on personal intelligence are very few. There is really a need to start empirical exploration on such a fruitless garden, establish assessment models and methods, and design an educational project in order to promote personal intelligence.

The assumptions on this kind of research are:

  1. Personal intelligence is a highly valuable characteristic of individuals. It is crucial to gifted students' career development.
  2. Personal intelligence is assessable, but the methods of assessment are different from traditional intelligence tests.
  3. Personal intelligence can be changed and promoted, but requires a solid educational design.

According to Confucius, knowledge is a key to achieving benevolence. To be benevolent requires one to control oneself so as to behave in accordance with a knowledge of rightness. For Confucians, intelligence is a matter of the ability to make the right moral judgement and to defend the validity of that judgement. It therefore comes as no surprise that Confucius said that "the intelligent man is a person without perplexity" (The Analects, IX.29, XIV.28), meaning that an intelligent person ought not to be perplexed in his or her judgement about right and wrong. He or she also has to know and improve him/her self first in order to understand and help others. The crucial way of understanding and improving one's self is by means of "retrospection" - self-examination on daily basis. Furthermore, one should be always open to knowledge and enjoy learning so as to be an actualized person. Being humble and honest is important to an intelligent person. According to Mencius, "Say what you know and don't pretend that you know, then you will be more and more knowledgeable." Therefore, from the Confucian perspective, the image of an intelligent person is one who know him/her self well and devotes his/her life to personality cultivation and social service. The true intelligence is thus an wisdom, which is beyond knowledge.

Appraisal of Personal Intelligence.

Although many scholars suspect the reliability and validity of scales assessing social intelligence, some studies have showed their validity in assessing people's social adaptability. For example, although the purpose of Tennessee Self-concept Scale is to assess an individual's personality characteristics, self-assertiveness, and self-concept, but not to assess an individual's personal intelligence, Ford & Miura (1983) found that self-assertiveness is apparently correlated to personal intelligence. An individual with positive self-concept has strong involvement and adaptability to society. A student with negative self-concept tends to become the one who needs school counselors to pay more attention to (Wei, 1996).

Generally speaking, there are major directions to assess social intelligence. One is to assess the characteristics of social maturity (e.g., assessing the characteristics of social behaviors on self-assertiveness, self-identity, social morality, gregarious ability, and sympathy). Many personality tests can predict an individual's social intelligence effectively, and so can Tennessee Self-concept Scale. According F. Erikson's theory, Ochse & Plug (1986) developed the "A Sense of Personal Identity" scale. This self-rating scale which includes items such as "I think my life style fits me," "I change my life plan constantly," "When I leave the people I am acquainted with, I feel I can own better my real self," is primarily to assess self-identity (Wei, 1996).

The other direction of appraisal of social intelligence focuses more on assessment of an individual's exterior behavior, but not on assessment of the characteristics of interior maturity. Its basic assumption is - What an individual is doing is more important than what he or she is thinking about, which is more valid for personal intelligence assessment (Sternberg, 1985).

There are many tests to assess social intelligence. For example, George Washington Social Intelligence Test (Moss, Hunt, Omwake, & Woodward, 1949) primarily contains ability of judging different social situations, awareness of the real meaning of a person's words, ability of remembering different names and their faces, and ability of observation and humor. Another example is Social Insight Test (Chapin, 1967). After the examinee describes a difficult situation, examinee has to put himself or herself in the situation and then try to apply different strategies to solve the problems.

Gardner (1993) thought that traditional methods of intelligence assessment should be improved. The methods of improvement he indicated were (1) emphasizing assessment, but not testing; (2) administrating assessment under simple, natural and daily circumstances; (3) focusing on ecological validity; (4) free from the impact of traditional intelligence (i.e., verbal, logical-mathematical); (5) applying various assessment instruments. (not only IQ tests); (6) considering about students' individual differences, development, and specialty; (7) adopting materials that can motivate students' interest; (8) being able to use the results of assessment to help students.

Gardner (1993) attempted to develop a battery of instrument to assess different aspects of intelligence. Under the "Project Spectrum", he and D.H. Feldman explored preschool children's intelligence (Feldman & Gardner, 1989). They believed that children have their individual differences and their own potentials in different dimensions. The assessment instruments they adopted were teaching tools or toys that children could often get in touch in daily life. What made the assessment method different from the traditional assessment is that, in the whole process of assessment administration, the examiners tried their best to provide children a nourishing learning environment to cultivate their interior potentials and then assess their performance of intelligence from different angles. The whole process of assessment took one year. The assessment primarily comprised fifteen different assessment activities. Some of the activities were more structured, such as the assessment on mathematical and musical domains. Some were more observation-oriented, such as the assessment on scientific and social ones. The program design was based on Gardner's perceptions of multiple intelligence. There were two important things in these assessment activities. The first thing was to assess children's cognitive learning abilities in seven types of intelligence through these fifteen activities. The second is to assess the children's learning attitude and ways of finding solutions. In other words, they tried to understand whether or not children could use different strategies to solve various problems.

From the social aspect, there are two ways of assessment (Gardner, 1993):

  1. The activities in a classroom: It was to assess children's observation and analytical ability in a classroom.
  2. Peers Interaction Inventory: They designed a checklist to assess how children interacted with their peers.

From what has been mentioned above, the assessment of personal intelligence should be different from the traditional ways of assessment. It should be multiple, dynamic, nature, and interesting, and free from the influence of academic intelligence (verbal, logical-mathematical, etc.). The cultural differences and individual reaction styles should be taken into account.

Construction of the Personal Intelligence Inventory and Related Empirical Studies

An integrated model of Personal Intelligence is proposed based on Thorndike's classical social intelligence, Gardner's conception of personal intelligence in his theory of multiple intelligences, Goleman's emotional intelligence, and Chinese cultural point of view. Wu and Chien (2000) have redefined the conception of personal intelligence as the "intrapersonal, interpersonal and interactive abilities":

  1. Intrapersonal abilitys is an ability to self-aware, self-examine, self-regard and self-adapt.
  2. Interpersonal ability is an ability to be empathic to, respectful to, amiable to, and guiding others.
  3. Interactive ability is an ability to be humorous, tolerate, appropriate role-playing, and conflict-solving.

Personal intelligence can be described as core of requirements of a successful career and analyst of the other constructs of intelligence.

Based on the renovated conception of personal intelligence, the "Personal Intelligence Inventory" (PII) was developed. The 72 items of PII are all situation-oriented. There are three forms of PII: Form A is in the form of multiple choice, Form B is an open-ended questionnaire, Form C is a very individual experience-based questionnaire. All forms measure the same construct of personal intelligence (three domains, with 4 sub-scales for each domain) with the same criteria, using a 4-point rating scale. Based on the sample of 620 grade 5 and 6 pupils in the Taipei area, the reliability of the PII was satisfactory. The inter-domain and the inter-subscale correlation coefficients were high and significant. The test-retest reliabilities of the total scale for Form A was .80, whiles the three domains were .61, .61, and .75, respectively. The inter-rater reliabilities for the total scale and domain scales of Forms B and C were also around .80. However, it is somewhat affected by "social desirability". The correlation coefficients between the PII and the Social Desirability Scale were .29 (p<.05) for the total PII score and .36 (p<.01), .15 (p>.05), and .28 (p<.05) for the three PII domain scores (Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Interactive), respectively.

Using the PII, Wu and Chien (2000) found some personal intelligence differences between gifted and regular pupils. However, gifted group is not as superior as on academic performance to the regular one. Details are as the following:

Wu and Chien (2000) used the PII to assess the 5th and 6th elementary school gifted and regular pupils (total N=620) in the Taipei area. It was found that intelligence and gender did have significant effects on personal intelligence. The multivariate analysis showed significant Wilk's Lambda values (Ls), .946 (p<.01) and .932 (p<.01), respectively, for both intelligence and gender variables; there were no significant interactions. In terms of intelligence group, the gifted students' interpersonal ability ("guiding others", in particular) was better than regular ones (Table 1); in terms of gender factor, girls' intrapersonal abilities ("self-retrospection", in particular) and interpersonal abilities ("being respectful" and "being amiable to", in particular) surpassed boys', while boys only showed better than girls in "being humorous" in the interactive dimension (Table 2). It is interesting to note that it seems that gifted group, although in general is in a better position, is not as superior as on academic performance to the regular one.

Table 1
Means and SDs of Gifted and Regular Groups on Personal Intelligence Inventory Scales and Summary of ANOVA

Table 2
Means and SDs of Boy and Girl Groups on Personal Intelligence Inventory (PII) Scales and Summary of ANOVA

In another study, using PII and the School Life Inventory, devised by Wu (1997), to assess elementary school gifted and regular pupils, Tsai and Wu (2000) found that intelligence and gender also had significant effects on school adjustment. The multivariate analysis (N=620) showed significant Ls, .971 (p<.01) and .926 (p<.01), respectively, for both intelligence and gender variables; there was no significant interactions. In terms of school adjustment, gifted students were superior to the regular ones (studiousness and teacher-student relationship, in particular, see Table 3). In terms of gender factor, girls' studiousness and compliance were better than boys', while boys' self-acceptance was better than girls (see Table 4). There were significant relationships of personal intelligence and school adjustment in both gifted students (R=.46) and the regular ones (R=.40) (Tables 5 & 6 ).

Table 3
Means and SDs of Gifted and Regular Groups on School Life Inventory (SLI) Scales and Summary of ANOVA

Table 4
Means and SDs of Boy and Girl Groups on School Life Inventory (SLI) Scales And Summary of ANOVA

Table 5
Correlation Matrix of Personal Intelligence Variables and School Adjustment Variables of Gifted Students

Table 6
Correlation Matrix of Personal Intelligence Variables and School Adjustment Variables of Regular Students

Promotion of Personal Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) can become exquisite by means of training. But how to train is the further step to be explored.

Nowadays, the conception of emotional education or social intelligence education has been developed in the United States. Self-Science workshops is the pioneer in this area and its main topic is the feelings happening in interpersonal interaction (Goleman, 1995). The other similar classes are increasingly developed under various names, such as Social Development, Life Skills, Social and Emotional Learning, and Personal Intelligence (Goleman, 1995).

Goleman (1995) has summarized related appraisals of effectiveness of social-development courses and found that these courses were very helpful to students' affections, social abilities, behavior in and off campus, and learning ability.

All after all, the purpose of education is not only for potential development but also emotional education so as to promote a holistic development of a person. Gifted education should value these as well. The ideal of whole-person education can be implemented down to the earth only when the idea of personal intelligence is incorporated in it.


Lately, some theories have brought new insights to the construct of intelligence. H. Gardner's (1993) theory of multiple intelligences and R. J. Sternberg's (1996) triarchic theory of intelligence are the most typical models among these theories. This paper attempts to integrate both viewpoints on the basis of the conceptualization of Successful Intelligence (Sternberg, 1996) to illustrate that a successful career requires balanced development on academic intelligence, personal (social) intelligence, and practical intelligence. Personal intelligence, which is very Chinese culture-related and rooted, is the core of the requirements and the catalyst of them. It should be viewed in terms of human wisdom beyond traditional cognitive ability. The current studies based on the new developed Personal Intelligence Inventory (Wu, 1997) proved to be a useful tool for assessment in this regard. The preliminary research findings regarding personal intelligence of gifted and regular pupils and its relationship with school adjustment indicate the importance of personal intelligence in educational process and career development. More researches are needed, of course. Though appraisal and promotion of personal intelligence is not easy, personal intelligence is highly valuable and worthy to further exploration. In the field of gifted education, there has been much attention on the social/emotional development of gifted students and it is evidenced in this study that there is a great need and a big room for gifted students in this regard.

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*Paper presented at the 14th World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, Barcelona, Spain, July 31-August 4, 2001.
Author's corresponding address:

Dr. Wu-Tien Wu
Department of Special Education
National Taiwan Normal University
162, Hoping E. Rd., Sec 1
Taipei, Taiwan 106, R.O.C.