Wisdom - Psychological Perspectives

Psychological Perspectives

Psychologists have gathered data on commonly held beliefs or folk theories about wisdom. These analyses indicate that although "there is an overlap of the implicit theory of wisdom with intelligence, perceptiveness, spirituality and shrewdness, it is evident that wisdom is a distinct term and not a composite of other terms." Many, but not all, studies find that adults' self-ratings of perspective/wisdom do not depend on age. This stands in contrast to the popular notion that wisdom increases with age, supported by a recent study showing that regardless of their education, IQ or gender, older adults possess superior reasoning about societal and interpersonal conflicts. In many cultures the name for third molars, which are the last teeth to grow, is etymologically linked with wisdom, e.g. as in the English wisdom tooth. In 2009, a study reviewed which brain processes might be related to wisdom.

Researchers in the field of positive psychology have defined wisdom as the coordination of "knowledge and experience" and "its deliberate use to improve well being." With this definition, wisdom can supposedly be measured using the following criteria.

  • A wise person has self-knowledge.
  • A wise person seems sincere and direct with others.
  • Others ask wise people for advice.
  • A wise person's actions are consistent with his/her ethical beliefs.

Measurement instruments that use these criteria have acceptable to good internal consistency and low to moderate test-retest reliability (r in the range of 0.35 to 0.67).

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