Excellence in Research

John D. Mayer

Professor of Psychology
College of Liberal Arts

John D. Mayer

"The discipline was ready for an integration that focused on the personality system itself."
—Jack Mayer

Jack Mayer has spent the better part of his adult life measuring things many believed did not exist and could not be measured. He calls them "hot intelligences."

A refugee from the clinical psychology programs of the 1980s, Mayer was uncomfortable with the status quo, which consisted mainly of Freudian, Jungian, and a half-dozen other prominent psychological theories. Hoping to address the fragmentation in the field, Mayer let go of competing modern theories and began studying human personality as one would any system: What are its central parts? How are the parts organized? How do the parts develop into personalities?

"The discipline was ready for an integration that focused on the personality system itself," says Mayer.

When Mayer submitted an early version of his new framework for the discipline to a psychology journal, an editor doubted Mayer (or anyone else) ever would be able to integrate all the parts of personality in one system.

Mayer began the Herculean task of cataloging common elements of the great twentieth-century psychological theories and integrating them along with newer research into one unified approach. Using the glossaries of psychology textbooks and other sources, Mayer found more than 400 significant personality parts and integrated them in a common table.

The new systematic treatment was published and became a milestone in the development of what Mayer calls his System Framework for Personality Psychology.

"It was one of the most important papers I've ever written," Mayer asserts, "but a little dull to read."

Mayer now believes that a person engages four areas to navigate his or her world: energy development, knowledge guidance, social enactment, and executive consciousness. The integration of these four areas determines an individual's ability to achieve his or her goals. Mayer's measurement research focuses on "hot intelligences." These variables enable people to think more clearly about their own and others' motives and emotions.

"Jack Mayer has made stellar contributions to psychology," says Rebecca Warner, professor of psychology, "including research and formulation of a new organizing framework for personality theories."

Today, even his harshest critics agree—Mayer's ideas are both intelligent and hot.

—Kurt Aldag