Does Wisdom Really Come with Age? It Depends on the Culture

Press Release, Association for Psychological Science

“Wisdom comes with winters,” Oscar Wilde once said. And it’s certainly comforting to think that aging benefits the mind, if not the body. But do we really get wiser as time passes?

There are many ways to define what exactly wisdom is, but previous literature suggests that having wisdom means that you are also good at resolving conflict. But conflict is not handled the same way across cultures. Americans have been shown to emphasize individuality and solve conflict in a direct manner, such as by using direct persuasion. In contrast, the Japanese place a greater emphasis on social cohesion, and tend to settle conflict more indirectly, using avoidance strategies or relying on mediation through another person.

In a study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Igor Grossmann of the University of Waterloo, Canada and his colleagues investigated how the resolution of conflict and, by extension, wisdom differ between Japanese and American cultures.

The researchers hypothesized that Japanese individuals, who tend to be socialized to value interpersonal harmony, would be better at resolving conflict and show more wisdom earlier in life. Americans, on the other hand, experience more conflict over time and the researchers hypothesized that this would result in continued learning about conflict resolution across the lifespan and greater wisdom later in life.

Read the article.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

  • Douglas McKee said:

    Almost every article about Wisdom begins with a disclaimer about the definition of Wisdom. Why is it so difficult to define? Try this.

    “Wisdom is the freedom and ability to make the kinds of choices that move our lives forward and benefit the planet.”

    Another perspective could be to understand Wisdom as having gained the ability to think and, by extension act, in ways that do not create conflict, either internally or externally.


    Doug McKee

    October 24, 2012 4:17 PM
  • Helena said:


    Wisdom is difficult to define because is a multidimensional construct, that can be defined in multiple ways, and, as consequence, can be studied from different perspectives. From a psychological point of view, for example, we can study wisdom as a pragmatic of intelligence (with the wisdom paradigm of Baltes), or as a characteristic of personality defended by Monika ardelt).

    If you want to know a little bit more about this, go to,

    Helena Fernades

    Phd Student/University of Lisbon

    October 25, 2012 9:37 AM
  • Helena said:


    Wisdom is a multidimensional construct, and because of that, difficult to define. It can be studied from different perspectives and, for the last 30 years, have been studied for the psychological science. The investigators still don't agree on a definition on wisdom. For example, we can define wisdom as a pragmatic of intelligence, and study it using the wisdom paradigm of Baltes. Or we can see it as a personality characteristic and use de 3WS of MoniKa Ardelt.

    Its a very challengig and interesting topic of study. For more information about this topic, go to

    Its an article from my Phd supervisor, Professor, Helena Marchand.

    Helena Fernandes

    Phd Student/University of Lisbon

    October 25, 2012 9:46 AM
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