Researchers find way to measure wisdom

By Karla Tecson, International Business Times

Researchers at the University of Southern Queensland are designing a new measure that would "accurately and objectively" capture an individual's level of wisdom.

The new psychological measure of wisdom might be able to tell whether you make good life choices, according to the team, as reported in Brisbane Times. It could potentially help psychologists identify ways to help people develop wisdom over the course of their lives, according to the team.

"We're working on developing a questionnaire type scale that compares the respondents' answers to the definition and answers rated by experts in psychology of wisdom as being high, medium, or low in wisdom," psychology professor Bob Knight said.

While wisdom is difficult to define, Knight said the study would use a modified version of the Berlin Wisdom Group's definition. Based on mastery of the "fundamental pragmatics of life," the group defines wisdom as possessing a superior level of knowledge, judgement and advice.

For the study, the researchers are recruiting adult volunteers to complete a questionnaire consisting of questions assessing factors such as health and spirituality, as well as a series of situation-based questions.

"Wisdom has some overlap with spirituality and with intelligence and we're interested in exploring the overlap and making sure that our measure is somewhat distinct," Knight said.

In a 2011 study published in Psychological Science, researchers say they have developed laboratory tests that can measure wisdom. For the research, psychologists designed a model requiring participants to evaluate each result in order to strategise the next choice, more like decision making in the real world.

Based on their findings, older adults were observed to be better at evaluating the immediate and delayed benefits of each option they choose from. They are better at creating strategies in response to the environment, said Darrell Worthy of Texas A&M University. The psychologists inferred that these results are related to the ways humans use brains as they age.

According to the study, younger people's choice making relies on the ventral striatum, which is related to habitual, reflexive learning and immediate rewards: impulsivity. However, as this portion of the brain declines, older adults compensate by using their pre-frontal cortices, where more rational, deliberative thinking is controlled.

More broadly, the researchers say their findings suggest that older adults have learned a number of heuristics or reasoning methods from their vast decision-making experience.

Read the article: Tecson, K. (2015, November 30). Researchers find way to measure wisdom. International Business Times.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

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