The Science of Wisdom

Wisdom is a profound human virtue that helps us navigate life’s difficulties and enhance collective well-being. It is also an integral component of optimal human development and often seen as a source of social capital and personal fulfillment, yet scientific study of this characteristic remains limited, with most current efforts focusing on issues surrounding definition and measurement rather than understanding how individuals acquire wisdom.

Some scholars have defined wisdom according to its context, such as Ardelt (2003) or Berlin’s wisdom paradigm; or as a mental process (Piaget and Neo-Piagetians). Sternberg (2019b) and Wang (Wang & Fu, 2017) have classified it by depth and domain generality – usually, deep domain-general wisdom is what comes to mind when we consider someone wise: this type of person can reflect deeply upon complex matters before offering insightful advice in numerous situations.

However, this definition of wisdom can pose problems. It may be easy for an individual to claim they possess wisdom if they display characteristics typical of wise people–for instance, age or accomplishments–even without possessing extensive domain-general wisdom. Conversely, possessing vast amounts of expert knowledge may not make for wise decision-making when encountering situations outside your expertise area. It is, therefore, crucial that people view wisdom as a process rather than as a trait or state of being; the best way to gain this quality lies by paying attention to all aspects of life.