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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2008 Jan;3(1):56-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6916.2008.00062.x.

The Fascination of Wisdom: Its Nature, Ontogeny, and Function.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany Department of Psychology and Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan


Wisdom has intrigued both scholars and laypersons since antiquity. On the one hand, its seemingly ethereal yet obvious qualities are timeless and universal. On the other hand, these same qualities are evolving and responsive to historical and cultural change. Novel societal and personal dilemmas emerge over time, and the ways and means to deal with recurring dilemmas are revisited and updated with prudence. Building on philosophical analyses of the role of theoretical and practical wisdom in good conduct and judgment about life matters, psychologists have begun to apply scientific methods to questions about the nature, function, and ontogeny of wisdom. We outline these research directions and focus on the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm, which was one of the first attempts to bring wisdom into the laboratory. Future research on wisdom would profit from interdisciplinary collaboration and creative application of new methods drawn from developmental, social, and cognitive psychology.

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