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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.
This chapter reviews theoretical and empirical relationships between wisdom and aspects of intelligence, personality, emotions and well-being, and value orientations. Relationships between wisdom and other psychological characteristics vary considerably by wisdom measure. On average, wise people tend to be somewhat more intelligent than not-so-wise people. They also tend to be more open to new experiences and ideas. Wise people are generally quite happy with their lives, although there are many people who are happy without also being wise. Wise people care more than other people about self-direction and a common good.
This chapter reviews theoretical models and empirical evidence about the development of wisdom. Wisdom does not automatically come with age: many people grow very old without becoming very wise! Studies show that the relationship between wisdom and ages varies somewhat between different measures of wisdom, but there seems to be a growing consensus that very wise people tend to be in their late middle age – say, between age 50 and 70. Some reasons why this life phase may be particularly rich in wisdom are discussed. Then, theories about pathways to wisdom are reviewed. The MORE Life Experience Model proposes that life challenges are catalysts for the development of wisdom, and that certain psychological resources – openness, reflectivity, emotional sensitivity and emotion regulation, and management of uncertainty and uncontrollability – enable some individuals to grow wiser from the challenges they go through.
This chapter reviews the methods that psychologists have devised for measuring wisdom. There are two classical types of measures: self-report scales, where people rate themselves with respect to characteristics of wisdom, and performance measures, where people respond to descriptions of problems that require wisdom. Both types of measures have their problems. Self-report wisdom scales are susceptible to both unintentional distortions, if participants have inaccurate views of themselves, and intentional distortions, if participants want to present themselves as wiser than they are. Performance measures require a lot of effort for administration and scoring, and they measure what participants theoretically think about a problem, which is not necessarily what they would do if they were faced with that problem in real life. New approaches have tried to move the measurement of wisdom closer to real life. Some researchers ask people about difficult events from their own life. Other researchers use videos instead of real-life conflicts and written problem descriptions. There is still a lot of room for improvement of our wisdom measures.
This chapter enables readers to assess whether they are wise. It reviews elements of wisdom and tests readers on each of them: knowledge, life span contextualism, value relativism, recognition and management of uncertainty and uncontrollability, reflectivity, learning from experience, emotion regulation, empathy, openness, critical thinking, creative thinking, balancing your own, others’, and larger interests over the long-term as well as the short-term, seeking a common good.
This chapter defines wisdom and discusses its relevance to life. In particular, it highlights wisdom as the search for a common good, by balancing one’s own, others’, and larger interests over the long- as well as the short-term through the infusion of positive ethical values. The chapter gives an extended example of how this definition applies in a real-life-type of situation. The chapter discusses each of the elements of wisdom in detail. It also provides some quiz material for people to try out these ideas for themselves. It relates wisdom to moral development, discussing in particular Kohlberg’s theory. It also discusses the relevance of Haidt’s theory of morality to wisdom. It further discusses how wisdom relates to ethical action, presenting a model of how ethical thought proceeds and how it is translated into action. Finally, it discusses how wisdom can be applied through either adapting to the environment, shaping the environment, or selecting a new environment.
The world is simultaneously facing many crises that humanity is failing to solve. Yet, at the same time, humans are smarter (with IQs on average thirty points higher than a century ago) and more knowledgeable (with the world's knowledge base at our fingertips), and scientific advances are accelerating. However, intelligence and knowledge are not enough: wisdom harnesses these strengths to serve the common good. Education is focused on acquiring knowledge, but schools would do better also to teach and test for the development of wisdom. To a lot of people, wisdom is an abstraction, but there is a growing body of scientific research into what wisdom is and how it works. This introduction sets out why wisdom is so important. Drawing on insights from psychology, philosophy, science, and common sense, this book provides a complete account of wisdom and how we can develop it throughout our lives.
Neuroscientific theories of intelligence view intelligence as localized in the brain (e.g., Barbey, 2018; Duncan et al., 2000; Haier, 2016). It would be hard to disagree with the idea that intelligence is somehow localized in the brain. Aside from reflexes, intelligent human behavior emanates from the brain, which in turn is affected by a variety of bodily systems. But is intelligence 100% biological, as Haier (2016) at least claims, or is there some benefit in viewing intelligence through a larger lens? Is the argument over whether intelligence is 100% biological even worth having?