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This chapter discusses why wisdom is so important. It opens with a discussion of why wisdom is so crucial in today’s world. The chapter points out that the world faces enormous problems, such as global climate change and threats of, and actual pandemics. Wisdom is needed more than ever, but often is not to be found. The chapter then discuss why intelligence, at least as usually defined, is not enough. Many people are smart, but they use their smarts only for their own benefit, or for the benefit of people like themselves rather than for a common good. The chapter next discusses why creativity is not enough. People can be creative but use their creativity for selfish or even destructive ends. Finally, the chapter discusses why wisdom is so hard to find. Many people appear, on the surface, to be wise, but then prove not to be. The chapter ends with some brief conclusions.
This chapter reviews psychological theories and research about how wisdom develops. Why do some people become highly wise over time while others do not seem to gain any insights from their experiences? First, a broad developmental model of wisdom as expertise is introduced, which distinguishes between person characteristics, factors that foster the development of expertise in general, and experiential contexts that are conducive to wisdom. Then, a more specific model is described that describes five resources that help people gain wise insights from life challenges. Finally, empirical evidence on the relationship between wisdom and age is reviewed.
This chapter outlines two basic ways to measure wisdom. Self-report measures are quick and easy to administer. Their main disadvantage is that they assess people’s own views of their own wisdom, which may or may not be an accurate representation of their actual wisdom. In fact, highly wise individuals may view themselves as less wise than highly self-confident but not-quite-as-wise individuals! Self-report measures are more useful for assessing attitudes or feelings than for assessing competencies and abilities. Open-ended, problem-based measures of wisdom do not require people to judge themselves. They directly show how wisely participants think about difficult problems. Obviously, the effort and time required to administer, transcribe, and code open-ended wisdom measures is much higher than for self-report measures. Also, when we present people with fictitious problems of fictitious people, emotional involvement will be low and their responses will represent theoretical wisdom that they might not be able to access in a stressful situation. If we interview them about problems from their own life, however, different people may end up talking about very different problems. Currently, researchers are working on measures that involve participants emotionally but remain somewhat standardized with respect to content.
This chapter reviews psychological theories of wisdom. At a global level, the chapter is divided into two main parts. The first part of the chapter reviews the major theories. The chapter opens with a brief consideration of work on implicit theories of wisdom that may have motivated some of the work on explicit theories. The chapter then reviews explicit psychological theories, in particular, the Berlin wisdom model, Sternberg’s balance theory, Ardelt’s three-dimensional model, Webster H.E.R.O.(E) model, Levenson and Aldwin’s self-transcendence model, Karami and colleagues’ polyhedron model, and Grossmann and colleagues’ common-denominator model. The second part of the chapter seeks to place the various theories into a general theoretical framework, which Sternberg and Karami referred to as a 6P framework, expanding upon Rhodes’s 4P framework for creativity. The 6Ps are purpose, press, problem, person, process, and product. All of the wisdom theories can be viewed as dealing with some, but not all of the 6Ps. The final part of the chapter draws brief conclusions, pointing out that wisdom is extremely important to society today and that psychological theories can help us understand what wisdom is and what its place in society can and should be.
This chapter summarized the theoretical and empirical relationships between wisdom and morality. Wise individuals are able to think carefully and rationally about moral dilemmas, recognizing their own intuitive impulses but not necessarily following them in making decisions. As they think about complex moral dilemmas, they aim to balance the different perspectives, interests, and needs optimally. Their value orientations are focused on a greater good that does not just include members of their own family or group but humanity and the world at large. Because they are good at thinking about moral issues and at dealing with the emotional and social aspects of complex situations, they are likely to also act ethically in difficult situations. Many of the great wisdom exemplars in history stood up for a just cause and accomplished major societal changes by peaceful means. We believe that the ethical aspect of wisdom is particularly important in a time where the world needs good decisions that do not focus on the needs of any particular nation or group. If we want to overcome serious world problems, such as climate change, global pandemics, and rising inequality, we need ethical and wise leaders.
The Psychology of Wisdom: An Introduction is the first comprehensive coursebook on wisdom, providing an engaging, balanced, and expert introduction to the psychology of wisdom. It provides a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the psychological science of wisdom, covering wide-ranging perspectives. Each chapter includes extensive pedagogy, including a summary, a glossary, bolded terms, practical applications, discussion questions, and a brief description of the authors' research. Topics include the philosophical foundations, folk conceptions, and psychological theories of wisdom; relations of wisdom to morality and ethics, to personality and well-being, to emotion; wisdom and leadership, wisdom and social policy. These topics are covered in a non-technical, bias-free, and student-friendly manner. Written by the most eminent experts in the field, this is the definitive coursebook for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as interested professionals and researchers.
On the day we write this Epilogue, the President of the United States has been impeached for the second time. He is the first president of the country to be impeached twice. Many politicians of one party, including the president, have fomented violence. The country is riven into two. If the United States were the only country flirting with authoritarianism, one might view it as an anomaly, but at present, many countries in Eastern Europe have elected authoritarian governments, as have countries in Asia, North America, and South America. Such governments, once in power, do not go easily. The country is run for the benefit of the government and its members rather than of the people.
This chapter reviews how psychologists’ ideas of wisdom have evolved over time. There was virtually no research on wisdom until the 1970s. As psychologists became more interested in aging, wisdom, as a positive quality associated with old age, became a field of interest. The first psychological research programs on wisdom took a cognitive perspective, conceptualizing wisdom as a form of expert knowledge or practical intelligence. From about 2000 on, both the field broadened considerably. Wisdom was conceptualized as a combination of personality dimensions, self-transcendence, or applying insights gained from life reflection. In the third, most recent phase, wisdom is no longer viewed as a stable trait. As it turns out, wisdom depends on situations and contexts: most people are sometimes very wise and sometimes not wise at all. Some recent research looks at the situational conditions that foster or hinder wisdom.