Factors such as whether you are alone or with friends can affect how wisely you reason, says a study that suggests that our level of wisdom varies depending on the situation.
The study defines wise reasoning as a combination of such abilities as intellectual humility, consideration of others’ perspective and looking for compromise.
“This research does not dismiss that there is a personality component to wisdom, but that’s not the whole picture,” said lead author of the study Igor Grossmann, Professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
“Situations in daily life affect our personality and ability to reason wisely,” Grossmann said. The observation that wise reasoning varies dramatically across situations in daily life suggests that while it fluctuates, wisdom may not be as rare as we think. Further, for different individuals, only certain situations may promote this quality.
“There are many examples where people known for their critical acumen or expertise in ethics seem to fall prey to lack of such acumen or morals. The present findings suggest that those examples are not an anomaly,” Grossmann said.
“We cannot always be at the top of our game in terms of wisdom-related tendencies, and it can be dangerous to generalise based on whether people show wisdom in their personal life or when teaching others in the classroom,” Grossmann noted.
By examining conditions and situations under which people may or may not show wisdom in their lives, researchers and practitioners may learn more about situations promoting wisdom in daily life and recreating those situations. For the next stage of this work, Grossmann and his team are preparing a tool to assess wisdom according to the situation.
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.