Center for Practical Wisdom Research Forum: Igor Grossmann 2017 (video)

Wisdom, Balance and Bias: Towards a process sensitive measurement of wisdom-related qualities

The following is a recorded presentation of Igor Grossmann, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Wisdom and Culture Laboratory from the University of Waterloo, Cananda at the University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom Research Forum in August 2017.

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Presentation abstract: Philosophers and behavioral scientists suggest that wisdom includes unbiased reasoning, guiding a person toward balancing of various interests. However, major instruments developed to test wisdom are by default influenced by psychological bias and it is unclear whether they capture balance-related tendencies. My laboratory has examined whether shifting the focus from global, de-contextualized reports to state-focused reports about concrete situations provides a less biased method to assess wise reasoning, which may be aligned with the notion of balancing interests. To this end, I introduce a state-focused measure of wise reasoning. Results of a large-scale psychometric investigation (N = 3,982) revealed that the new measure is not subject to psychological biases (attribution bias, bias blind spot, self-deception, impression management), whereas global wisdom reports are subject to such biases. Moreover, state-focused scores were positively related to greater balancing of cooperative and self-protective interests, goals (influence-vs.-adjustment), and causal inferences about conflict (internal-vs.-external), whereas global wisdom reports were unrelated or negatively related to balance-related measures. Notably, within-person consistency in wise reasoning across situations/over time was weak, suggesting that a single-shot measurement may be insufficient for whole understanding of trait-level wisdom. I discuss theoretical and practical implications for research on wisdom, judgment and decision making, well-being, and prosociality.

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Degrane

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