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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2017 Mar;12(2):233-257. doi: 10.1177/1745691616672066.

Wisdom in Context.

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University of Waterloo, Canada.


Philosophers and psychological scientists have converged on the idea that wisdom involves certain aspects of thinking (e.g., intellectual humility, recognition of uncertainty and change), enabling application of knowledge to life challenges. Empirical evidence indicates that people's ability to think wisely varies dramatically across experiential contexts that they encounter over the life span. Moreover, wise thinking varies from one situation to another, with self-focused contexts inhibiting wise thinking. Experiments can show ways to buffer thinking against bias in cases in which self-interests are unavoidable. Specifically, an ego-decentering cognitive mind-set enables wise thinking about personally meaningful issues. It appears that experiential, situational, and cultural factors are even more powerful in shaping wisdom than previously imagined. Focus on such contextual factors sheds new light on the processes underlying wise thought and its development, helps to integrate different approaches to studying wisdom, and has implications for measurement and development of wisdom-enhancing interventions.


adult development; culture; reasoning; self; social conflict; wisdom

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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