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Not by age but by knowledge is wisdom acquired

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Not by age but by knowledge is wisdom acquired
November 19, 2018 Anniversary Wishes for Wife 2 comments

Wisdom is a virtue that isn't innate, but can only be acquired through By learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test, you can It's easy to base our views on the limited experiences we've had in life, but that's not the way to gain wisdom. .. Be Older Than Your Age.

Knowledge and Wisdom (Part One)

Author Sandra Carey writes, "Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life." Put another way, knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad!

Knowledge is having information, knowing facts, possessing skills acquired through experience or education. Wisdom, however, is knowledge of what is true or right coupled with proper judgment as to action. We can also think of it as the ability to think, act, or discern what is best or applying common sense and experience at the right time, at the right place, in the right way.

We assume that wisdom comes with age, which is partly true but not a given. We all know someone of a certain advanced age who still does dumb things—and on the flipside, we have all seen a young person make excellent decisions. Knowledge and understanding form the basis of wisdom, and over time, then, a person gains experience. On a physical level, this experience combines with knowledge to give us insight, leading to wisdom.

Plenty of learned individuals with extensive life-experience understand little to nothing about the Bible and the wisdom it contains. Most people can memorize and recite the Ten Commandments, but do they understand them? Can they expand them to apply their principles to various situations? Without God's Holy Spirit working in them, they are merely repeating words. Their wisdom is merely "on a physical level."

The primary Hebrew word for "wisdom" is ?okmāh (Strong's #2451), a feminine noun used 145 times in the Old Testament. It means "skillful, wisdom, wisely." Solomon uses ?okmāh 41 times in Proverbs and 28 times in Ecclesiastes, meaning that just under half of its biblical appearances come from one writer, Solomon. ?okmāh indicates "wisdom" but can also refer to technical skills or special abilities, such as the artisans in Exodus possessed whom God used to make things for the Tabernacle.

Solomon uses it in the sense of "the right use of knowledge; using common sense; or skill in living and in relationships with others." This kind of wisdom accrues over time. We naturally become wise, or skilled in living, as we age, right? Solomon himself possessed great wisdom, but he did some stupid things in his dealings with women and foreign gods. He began with great wisdom, but toward the end of his life, at a time when his wisdom should have been at its peak, he seems to have lost it.

So we will look into the seeking and keeping of wisdom, beginning in Proverbs 1:1-7:

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Notice in verse 2 that wisdom and instruction go together. The wise man listens and learns more. Verse 3 again pairs wisdom and instruction. Verse 4 tells us that these proverbs will give a young man knowledge, something not always easy to accomplish. When a young person reaches the late teenage years, he knows so much. He goes off into the world, college, work, travel, or whatever he chooses to do, and later comes back to share that knowledge with the poor, old parent, who is in desperate need of enlightenment. The Contemporary English Version puts verse 4 in an understandable way: "From these [the Proverbs], an ordinary person can learn to be smart, and young people can gain knowledge and good sense." (Contemporary English Version® Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.)

Even though Solomon lived 3,000 years ago, this wisdom is timeless.

Verses 5 and 6 tells us that the wise will continue to learn! They will not stop learning, seeking understanding, and growing. With the young mentioned in the previous verse, the reader may assume that Solomon implies a contrast here, that the "wise" are older. This may well be the case, but it does not mean that wisdom is confined to those of the senior set. Typically, it does but not always. Anyone, of any age, with the gift of God's Holy Spirit, through study, prayer, and meditation can gain wisdom, that "skill in living" that we all need and want.

In verse 7, the very beginning of knowledge, which we must possess to gain wisdom, is the "fear of the LORD." The Good News Translation renders verse 7 as, "To have knowledge, you must first have reverence for the LORD. Stupid people have no respect for wisdom and refuse to learn." (Good News Translation® Copyright © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.)

An article appears in the news just about every week of yet another professor somewhere spouting off learnedly on some subject but sounding like a complete moron! The professor sounds this way to us because we process his words through the knowledge and wisdom filter that God has given us. This filter, which has developed in us over time spent in His Word, governs our thoughts and actions. The professor may be quite knowledgeable in his field of study and even in the wisdom of the world, but God and His Word play no role in his life. So, by the biblical standard, he is a "fool"—or one of the "stupid people," as The Good News Translation flatly states it.

Next time, we will pursue the idea of how valuable godly wisdom should be to us.

- Mike Ford

2018-11-09
The series:

"Not by age but by capacity is wisdom acquired. Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in.

What Is the Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom?

not by age but by knowledge is wisdom acquired

Abstract

Objectives.

Contrary to lay theories, past work does not suggest robust age differences in wisdom-related knowledge across the adult life span. This study investigated a potential moderator of age differences in wisdom-related knowledge: The age relevance of a given wisdom task.

Method.

To test this moderator, 192 participants covering the adult life span were asked to think aloud about a traditional vignette-based wisdom task with no particular age relevance and about newly developed tasks of problems that arguably are particularly salient in young adulthood, namely, marital conflicts. These tasks were presented as vignette and as naturalistic video clips.

Results.

Replicating earlier work, there were no linear age differences in wisdom-related knowledge as elicited by the traditional age-neutral wisdom task. However, both vignette-based and video-based tasks about marital conflict elicited greater wisdom-related knowledge in younger than in older adults. Young adults’ greater actual experience and openness to marital conflict contributed to these age differences.

Discussion.

This study provides evidence for the idea that age differences in wise reasoning about fundamental life issues depend on the relevance of age-normative problems in individuals’ own lives. This suggests that any phase of life offers opportunities for the attainment of wisdom-related strengths as long as an individual is willing and able to actively engage in life’s ongoing challenges.

Adult life span, Age relevance, Ecological validity, Marital conflict, Wisdom-related knowledge.

Although the psychology of wisdom is a relatively small field, several promising definitions of wisdom have been developed during the last decades (Ardelt, 2004; Baltes & Smith, 1990; Staudinger & Glück, 2011). In this study, we adopted the Berlin wisdom model as a theoretical framework. The Berlin model has focused on one component of wisdom, that is, broad and deep knowledge about important, difficult, and uncertain questions related to the meaning and conduct of life. This body of knowledge has been further described on the basis of five criteria, including three core criteria: life-span contextualism, value relativism and tolerance, and recognition and management of uncertainty (Baltes & Smith, 1990; Baltes & Staudinger, 2000). The definition of wisdom as knowledge about fundamental life problems signals that wisdom does not refer to purely academic or intellectual knowledge that can be acquired vicariously or by direct instruction; rather it encompasses insight into human nature and the complexity of the life course that can only be achieved through exposure to difficult and uncertain questions about the meaning and conduct of life as well as deep reflection upon and critical evaluation of one’s experiences (Glück & Bluck, 2013; Staudinger & Glück, 2011; Sternberg, 2005). This process has been thought to involve questioning and, if necessary, transcending the given circumstances (e.g., rules, norms, and expectations). In this sense, and similar to related concepts such as cognitive-affective complexity (Labouvie-Vief, 2003), wisdom has been considered a prototype of personality growth that is distinct from other forms of positive personality development aimed at an optimal adjustment of the individual to the given circumstances and a maximization of positive experiences within such given settings (Staudinger & Kunzmann, 2005).

Age and Wisdom-Related Knowledge

The idea that the way to higher wisdom is resource demanding and requires a deliberate, intensive, and extended dealing with difficult and uncertain life problems suggests that only very few individuals will acquire wisdom in its higher and idealized form and that becoming older is not sufficient for wisdom to develop. In fact, in several cross-sectional studies utilizing the Berlin wisdom tasks, the association between age and wisdom-related knowledge was nonsignificant and virtually zero. In addition, mean levels of wisdom-related knowledge were generally below the mean of the wisdom scales (Staudinger, 1999; Staudinger & Glück, 2011).

Although this evidence is consistent with the idea that few individuals possess high wisdom-related knowledge and that age per se does not bring wisdom, it is still possible that many adults, regardless of their age, can gain some wisdom-related knowledge about some problems, namely the problems that are particularly salient in their own current life. Life-span developmental researchers would suggest that the problems an individual has a high need to deal with and solve are at least partly influenced by this individual’s age (Baltes, 1987). In a similar vein, Erikson (1968) proposed that in each stage in the life cycle, a person faces specific challenges and tasks. For example, old age has been described as a period of loss during which individuals need to let go of many goals and find meaning in their lives as lived. Eventually because of their greater exposure to the theme of loss, older adults may be more likely to gain wisdom-related knowledge about the problems and challenges that surround this theme than their younger counterparts. This does not necessarily mean, however, that older adults generally have greater wisdom-related knowledge than younger people. As with any type of knowledge, wisdom-related knowledge may be less likely to be available and may even vanish if it is of little salience to the individual and, thus, not regularly used (Förster, Liberman, & Higgins, 2005; Jarvis, 1987). Seen in this light, there may be problems that elicit greater wisdom-related knowledge in younger than in older adults, namely, problems that are particularly relevant in young adulthood but not in old age.

Direct evidence for this idea is sparse, given that most past studies interested in age differences in wisdom-related knowledge have been based on wisdom tasks with no particular age relevance or domain specificity (Staudinger & Glück, 2011). However, indirect evidence comes from two studies that varied the age of the wisdom tasks’ main protagonists (Smith, Staudinger, & Baltes, 1994; Staudinger, Smith, & Baltes, 1992). Both studies suggested an age-match effect in wisdom-related knowledge although this effect was limited to either one type of problem (Smith et al., 1994) or one wisdom criterion (Staudinger et al., 1992). One explanation for this limited evidence is that the authors varied the main protagonist’s age but held the problem’s structure and content constant across their experimental conditions. Whereas the two studies reviewed earlier investigated adult age groups, a study conducted by Pasupathi, Staudinger, and Baltes (2001) compared adolescents and young adults and actually varied the wisdom tasks’ age relevance in that some tasks covered themes specifically interesting to adolescents, whereas other tasks were specifically relevant to the adult group. Within young adults, wisdom-related knowledge was significantly more pronounced in response to the “adult” wisdom tasks than in response to the “adolescent” problems. However, the age relevance of the wisdom problems made no difference for adolescents’ wisdom-related knowledge, which was generally relatively low, suggesting that all tasks might have been too difficult for this group for age-match effects to occur.

The Present Study

The goal of this study was to extend the empirical work reviewed earlier, testing the age relevance of a given wisdom task as a moderator of age differences in wisdom-related knowledge in a sample of 192 adults covering the adult life span. We utilized a task with no particular age relevance and a task that was particularly relevant to young adults. The age-neutral task dealt with suicide, a nonnormative critical life event that is not specifically likely to occur at any particular age during adulthood. The task that was particularly relevant to young adults dealt with marital conflict. Establishing an intimate relationship has been thought to be a major developmental task in young adulthood, and this task clearly involves negotiating conflict, particularly about intimacy-related issues (Erikson, 1968). Recent life-span developmental research is consistent with the idea that the salience of marital conflict is highest in young adulthood and linearly declines with age. In addition, whereas younger spouses are likely to actively engage in a given marital conflict, older spouses tend to avoid or deny the conflict (Birditt, Fingerman, & Almeida, 2005; Blanchard-Fields, Jahnke, & Camp, 1995). The age-related decrease in the frequency and intensity of marital conflict and the increase in passive and avoidant conflict management strategies have been interpreted as adaptive feature of socioemotional aging and a sign of older adults’ motivation and ability to adapt to the given and make the most of it in terms of affect optimization (Carstensen, Isaacowitz, & Charles, 1999; Labouvie-Vief, 2003). Although the decreasing concern with marital conflict in old age may have emotional benefits, to the extent that wisdom-related knowledge requires direct experience with and active engagement in a problem, it is unlikely to foster wisdom-related knowledge.

In the tradition of the Berlin wisdom paradigm, the suicide and marital conflict tasks were presented as hypothetical text vignettes. In addition, and to test the idea that the ecological validity of the marital conflict task may be a factor that facilitates particularly young adults’ wisdom-related performance, the marital conflict problem was also presented via films of couples having a conversation about a mutual and long-lasting conflict in their marriage. These film-based tasks arguably are more ecologically valid than the vignettes in that they resemble real-life experiences more closely (Brewer, 2000). As a consequence, the films may be particularly well suited to elicit young individuals’ experience-based knowledge. Given that older adults have relatively little direct exposure to marital conflict, we expected that the tasks’ ecological validity would make less of a difference for their wisdom-related performance.

Predictions.

We predicted that the effects of age on wisdom-related knowledge about marital conflict should be significant and negative, whereas the effects of age on wisdom-related knowledge about suicide should be nonsignificant. In addition, age differences in wisdom-related knowledge about conflict should be stronger if wisdom-related knowledge was assessed by the film-based wisdom tasks rather than the vignette-based task. To begin to better understand the mechanisms that contribute to the predicted age differences in wisdom-related knowledge about marital conflict, we assessed two factors, which both indicate the degree to which marital conflict is a concern in individuals’ current lives: the stressfulness of own marital conflicts (conflict severity) and the willingness to engage actively in a given conflict in order to gain insight (openness to conflict). Proceeding from the evidence that older adults are less concerned with marital conflict than their younger counterparts as well as the idea that exposure to difficult life problems and the willingness to deal with life problems in an open, insight-seeking way may both enhance wisdom-related knowledge, we predicted that the severity of conflicts and the open and active engagement in conflicts would be negatively associated with age but positively associated with wisdom-related knowledge.

Method

Participants

The sample comprised 192 adults from six age groups (19–29, 30–39, 40–49, 50–59, 60–69, and 70–79 years), each stratified by gender. Participants were recruited through newspaper advertisement and distribution of flyers. They received €25 (approximately $35) for two 2-hr sessions to compensate their expenses. On average, participants were well educated with 15.7 years of education. Overall, they reported high levels of life satisfaction (M = 3.68; measured by a single item with a scale ranging from 1 [very unsatisfied] to 5 [very satisfied]).

Age group differences were found for years spent with education, F(5,181) = 4.51, p < .01, with the group of 30–39 years old having received the highest educational level (M = 17.80 years) and the group of 50–59 years old having the lowest level (M = 14.16 years). The analysis of a dichotomized variable “partnership” (yes vs. no, each 50% of the sample) revealed no age differences, χ2(5, N = 190) = 4.15, ns, suggesting that, in principle, the members of all age groups did not differ in the risk of being exposed to partnership conflicts.

Wisdom Tasks

As the age-neutral task, we used the suicide task, a task that had been used in several past studies from the Berlin group (i.e., “Somebody receives a phone call from a good friend. The friend says that she or he cannot go on anymore and that she or he has decided to commit suicide. What could one/the person consider and do?”). In addition, we formulated a vignette about marital conflict as a task that is particularly relevant to young adults (“Somebody has a serious conflict in her or his partnership. What could one/the person consider and do?”). Finally, to assess wisdom-related knowledge about marital conflict under more natural conditions, we presented films of couples as they discussed a mutual conflict in their marriage. Thus, the films presented real people’s real problems in context-rich ways (i.e., the spouses engaged in an authentic conflict conversation and expressed their thoughts and emotions on various verbal and nonverbal channels). Thirty-four couples were initially invited to our laboratory and video-taped as they had a conflict conversation (interview procedures were modeled after those that had been developed by Levenson and Gottman; Gottman & Levenson, 1992; Levenson & Gottman, 1983). At the end of a multiple-step validation procedure, three video clips were selected for which there was agreement that the conversations were highly authentic, the discussed conflicts were serious and emotionally burdensome for the couples, and the spouses expressed a wide range of negative emotions. Not surprisingly, the marital conflict films elicited greater negative emotional reactions than the hypothetical vignette-based conflict task, F(1,175) = 5.91; p = .016; ηp2 = .03. At a baseline period and after each wisdom task, negative emotional reactions were assessed by asking participants to indicate how intensely they currently feel each of 22 negative emotions. Negative emotional reactivity was calculated as the mean across the 22 negative emotion adjectives (negative emotion scale: αvideo clips = .79; αvignette = .85). There were no age differences in negative emotional reactivity (Mbaseline = 0.46, SD = 0.58; Mvignette = 0.55, SD = 1.23; Mvideo = 0.99, SD = 0.72). Each of the finally selected three films was approximately 5min long, showed the spouses’ front view in a split screen, and dealt with a different topic: hierarchy between the spouses and child-rearing problems, loyalty between the spouses and relationship with parents-in-law, and intimacy and amount of time spend together. The spouses were between 30 and 35 years old and had been living together since several years.

Age relevance of wisdom tasks.

Participants of a pilot study (young: N = 32, M = 23.6, range = 18–30 years; old: N = 32, M = 69.3, range = 61–80 years) indicated for each vignette how often the described problem (suicide or marital conflict) occurs in young adulthood and old age using a response scale from 1 (very rarely) to 5 (very often). A repeated measures ANOVA with target age (young vs. old) and problem domain (suicide vs. marital conflict) as within-subject factors and participants’ age (young vs. old) as between-subject factor revealed a significant main effect of problem domain, F(1,62) = 10.28, p = .002, as well as a significant interaction effect between problem domain and target age, F(1,62) = 36.22, p < .001. As expected, suicide was rated to occur less frequently (M = 2.20; SD = 0.75) than marital conflict (M = 2.57; SD = 0.65). Follow-up t-tests of the interaction effect suggested that suicide was considered to occur similarly infrequently in young adulthood and old age, t(63) = 1.14, ns, but marital conflict was considered to be more typical in young adulthood than in old age (Myoung = 3.39, SD = 1.05; Molder = 1.75, SD = .76, t(63) = 10.18, p < .001). There were no significant main or interaction effects of participants’ age.

Procedure

All participants attended two individual sessions. In the first session, participants were thinking aloud about the two vignettes (suicide and marital conflict) that were presented in counterbalanced order. All answers were tape-recorded and later transcribed. Four to seven days after the first session, participants returned for a second session during which they were thinking aloud about the three marital conflict films that were presented in counterbalanced order. Actually, this session comprised three trials [one film per trial], each consisting of four epochs: (a) A 1-min baseline period during which participants were asked to relax and clear their minds of all thoughts, feelings, and memories; (b) a film viewing period; (c) a period during which participants completed an inventory assessing their feelings during the film and their perceptions of the spouses’ feelings; (d) a period during which participants thought aloud about what the couple should consider or do in this situation. Again, all answers were tape-recorded and later transcribed. At the end of this session, participants completed a single-item and a five-item questionnaire assessing the occurrence of serious marital conflicts in their current life and their openness to the conflicts.

Measures

Wisdom-related knowledge.

Each of the transcribed think-aloud protocols from the first (n = 384; 192 participants × 2 vignette-based wisdom tasks) and second session (n = 576; 192 participants × 3 video-based wisdom tasks) was coded by pairs of trained independent raters according to three wisdom criteria (i.e., life-span contextualism, value relativism and tolerance, and awareness of uncertainty). The rater-training and coding procedures were established in our previous work (Kunzmann & Baltes, 2003; Staudinger, Smith, & Baltes, 1994). During the actual coding process, the raters assigned each protocol one score representing the degree to which the protocol matched the ideal definition of one of the three wisdom criteria (scores can range from 1 [no correspondence] to 7 [high correspondence]).

We decided not to code the basic criteria of wisdom-related knowledge (rich factual and rich procedural knowledge, see Staudinger et al., 1992) as they are (a) specific for expertise but not for wisdom, (b) thought to precede the wisdom-specific criteria in development (Pasupathi et al., 2001), and (c) relatively highly correlated with the wisdom-specific metacriteria (Smith & Baltes, 1990).

Considering the complexity of the criteria, interrater reliabilities were acceptable for the vignette-based tasks (r = .62; range = .56–.69) and for the video-based tasks (r = .65; range = .59–.69) and comparable with previous research (Mickler & Staudinger, 2008; Staudinger & Baltes, 1996). For each wisdom criterion, the codings of the two raters were averaged. The resulting three wisdom criteria scores for each task displayed satisfactory internal consistencies (αsuicide = .87; αconflict = .83; αCouple1 = .76; αCouple2 = .77; αCouple3 = .79) and were aggregated by computing mean scores. Descriptive statistics of and zero-order correlations among the single five measures are depicted in Table 1. The protocols’ length was comparable across tasks and age groups (Mwords = 553.03; SD = 308.64).

Table 1.

Wisdom-Related Knowledge in Response to Five Wisdom Tasks: Descriptive Statistics and Zero-Order Correlations

MSDWisdom tasks 
Suicide vignette Conflict vignette Couple 1 video Couple 2 video Couple 3 video 
Suicide vignette 2.90 0.93 .50*** .34*** .39*** .37*** 
Conflict vignette 3.23 0.98 .50*** .45*** .42*** 
Couple 1 video 3.35 0.74 .59*** .59*** 
Couple 2 video 3.20 0.77 .54*** 
Couple 3 video 3.27 0.75 
MSDWisdom tasks 
Suicide vignette Conflict vignette Couple 1 video Couple 2 video Couple 3 video 
Suicide vignette 2.90 0.93 .50*** .34*** .39*** .37*** 
Conflict vignette 3.23 0.98 .50*** .45*** .42*** 
Couple 1 video 3.35 0.74 .59*** .59*** 
Couple 2 video 3.20 0.77 .54*** 
Couple 3 video 3.27 0.75 

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Mediator variables.

A single item assessed the severity of own marital conflicts (“how emotionally stressful are your current marital conflicts?”) on a response scale from 0 (not at all stressful) to 6 (very stressful). Furthermore, participants were asked to indicate their agreement to five statements assessing openness to their own conflicts (i.e., the appreciation of conflicts as a source of insight and willingness to engage actively in conflicts; five items, α = .67) on a response scale ranging from 0 (completely disagree) to 4 (completely agree). The variables assessing openness to conflict and conflict severity were positively but nonsignificantly correlated (r = .14; ns). Descriptive statistics for the mediator variables are depicted in Table 3. Participants who were not married or in a similar relationship were asked to think of the person they felt most closely to when responding to the items assessing conflict severity and openness to conflict.

Results

Age Differences in Wisdom-Related Knowledge

Given the hierarchical structure of the present data set, age differences in wisdom-related knowledge and interactions with the tasks’ content and tasks’ presentation modus were tested by multilevel modelling using MPlus (Muthén & Muthén, 2010). In this analysis, the five tasks assessing wisdom-related knowledge served as Level-1 variables that were nested in participants (Level 2). The intercept-only model revealed an intraclass correlation coefficient of .432. This indicated that 43.2% of the variance of wisdom-related knowledge was attributable to tasks and 56.8% to persons suggesting that a multilevel analysis approach is recommended. In the next step, chronological age was added as Level-2 predictor variable. The means-as-outcomes model suggested a significantly negative relationship between wisdom-related knowledge and age (see Table 2). Wisdom-related knowledge was overall higher in younger than in older individuals. Next, the random-coefficient model was used to test the tasks’ content as predictor variable on Level 1. The regression coefficient was significantly negative, which suggested that wisdom-related knowledge was overall higher in response to the conflict tasks than in response to the suicide task (using a dummy variable: conflict tasks = “0,” suicide task = “1”). Further, a second random-coefficient model was run for tasks’ presentation modus. This time, the coefficient was significantly positive, that is, the video-based wisdom tasks elicited more wisdom-related knowledge than the vignette-based tasks (dummy variable: vignette-based tasks = “0,” video-based tasks = “1”). Finally, the intercepts-and-slopes-as-outcomes model was tested with all predictors on Level 1 and Level 2 entered into the model. The regression coefficient relating age to wisdom-related knowledge continued to be significantly negative. The same was true for the association between wisdom-related knowledge and the tasks’ content. The main effect for the presentation modus, however, did not reach significance after controlling for the tasks’ content. The cross-level interaction effect between age and the tasks’ presentation modus was also nonsignificant. In contrast, the cross-level interaction between participants’ age and the tasks’ content was significantly positive. Simple slope tests revealed that in the tasks depicting marital conflicts young adults scored higher than older adults, whereas no age differences occurred for the suicide task (see Figure 1). Notably, a significantly negative covariance between wisdom-related knowledge and the slopes of content and of presentation modus indicated that these predictor variables’ effects were smaller for individuals high in wisdom-related knowledge (content, r = −.213, p = .003; presentation modus, r = −.362, p < .001). Overall, these findings suggested that age was negatively associated with wisdom-related knowledge, but only for the marital conflict tasks. The marital conflict tasks’ presentation modus had no significant influence on the relationship between age and wisdom-related knowledge. These results remained basically unchanged when analyzing the three wisdom criteria separately as well as when testing education, gender, and health status as covariates.

Table 2.

Results of the Multilevel Analysis

Predictors of wisdom-related knowledge Unstandardized coefficient Standardized coefficient Two-tailed p value 
Means-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.007 −.145 .004 
Random-coefficient models 
    Tasks’ content −.360 −.422 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus .208 .244 <.001 
Intercepts-and-slopes-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.011 −.218 .005 
    Tasks’ content −.947 −.382 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus −.034 −.053 .841 
    Age × Tasks’ content .013 .262 .001 
    Age × Tasks’ presentation modus .002 .033 .641 
Predictors of wisdom-related knowledge Unstandardized coefficient Standardized coefficient Two-tailed p value 
Means-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.007 −.145 .004 
Random-coefficient models 
    Tasks’ content −.360 −.422 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus .208 .244 <.001 
Intercepts-and-slopes-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.011 −.218 .005 
    Tasks’ content −.947 −.382 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus −.034 −.053 .841 
    Age × Tasks’ content .013 .262 .001 
    Age × Tasks’ presentation modus .002 .033 .641 

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Figure 1.

Interaction between participants age and the tasks content. The interaction is plotted for individuals with 1 SD below and above mean age. Computed scores of wisdom-related knowledge are controlled for the tasks’ presentation modus. The upper slope indicates negative age differences in response to the marital conflict wisdom tasks; the lower slope indicates no age differences for the suicide wisdom task.

Figure 1.

Interaction between participants age and the tasks content. The interaction is plotted for individuals with 1 SD below and above mean age. Computed scores of wisdom-related knowledge are controlled for the tasks’ presentation modus. The upper slope indicates negative age differences in response to the marital conflict wisdom tasks; the lower slope indicates no age differences for the suicide wisdom task.

Additional analyses: Top 20% performances.

As the term wisdom is reserved only to the highest performances (Baltes, Staudinger, Maercker, & Smith, 1995; Staudinger & Baltes, 1996), we tested age differences in the top 20% range of wisdom-related knowledge in response to each task using Chi-Square tests. Analyses of wisdom-related knowledge as assessed by the conflict videos were based on an aggregate score (i.e., the mean performance across the three tasks; α = .80). As expected, all age groups were similarly frequent among the top performers in response to the suicide vignette, χ2(5, N = 36) = 5.67, ns. In response to the conflict vignette, no age differences emerged either, although descriptively a larger number of young (19–39 years, N = 15) than old adults (60–79 years, N = 7) were among the top performers, χ2(5, N = 31) = 4.42, ns. However, significantly more young (19–39 years, N = 21) than older adults (60–79 years, N = 5) were among the top 20% performers in response to the video-based conflict tasks, χ2(5, N = 40) = 13.10, p = .022.

Mediation Analyses

Following the procedure proposed by Baron and Kenny (1986), associations between wisdom-related knowledge about conflict, age, and the mediators were examined in linear regression analyses. Again, a mean score of the three video-based tasks was used. As indicated by multilevel analyses, age predicted wisdom-related knowledge in response to both task types, vignette, β = −.19, t(191) = −2.67, p < .01; video, β = −.25, t(191) = −3.52, p < .01.

As depicted in Table 3

Table 1.

Wisdom-Related Knowledge in Response to Five Wisdom Tasks: Descriptive Statistics and Zero-Order Correlations

MSDWisdom tasks 
Suicide vignette Conflict vignette Couple 1 video Couple 2 video Couple 3 video 
Suicide vignette 2.90 0.93 .50*** .34*** .39*** .37*** 
Conflict vignette 3.23 0.98 .50*** .45*** .42*** 
Couple 1 video 3.35 0.74 .59*** .59*** 
Couple 2 video 3.20 0.77 .54*** 
Couple 3 video 3.27 0.75 
MSDWisdom tasks 
Suicide vignette Conflict vignette Couple 1 video Couple 2 video Couple 3 video 
Suicide vignette 2.90 0.93 .50*** .34*** .39*** .37*** 
Conflict vignette 3.23 0.98 .50*** .45*** .42*** 
Couple 1 video 3.35 0.74 .59*** .59*** 
Couple 2 video 3.20 0.77 .54*** 
Couple 3 video 3.27 0.75 

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Table 2.

Results of the Multilevel Analysis

Predictors of wisdom-related knowledge Unstandardized coefficient Standardized coefficient Two-tailed p value 
Means-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.007 −.145 .004 
Random-coefficient models 
    Tasks’ content −.360 −.422 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus .208 .244 <.001 
Intercepts-and-slopes-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.011 −.218 .005 
    Tasks’ content −.947 −.382 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus −.034 −.053 .841 
    Age × Tasks’ content .013 .262 .001 
    Age × Tasks’ presentation modus .002 .033 .641 
Predictors of wisdom-related knowledge Unstandardized coefficient Standardized coefficient Two-tailed p value 
Means-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.007 −.145 .004 
Random-coefficient models 
    Tasks’ content −.360 −.422 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus .208 .244 <.001 
Intercepts-and-slopes-as-outcomes model 
    Age −.011 −.218 .005 
    Tasks’ content −.947 −.382 <.001 
    Tasks’ presentation modus −.034 −.053 .841 
    Age × Tasks’ content .013 .262 .001 
    Age × Tasks’ presentation modus .002 .033 .641 

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Wisdom vs intelligence

not by age but by knowledge is wisdom acquired

A quiet mind married to integrity of heart is the birth of wisdom. (Adyashanti)

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It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish. (Aeschylus)

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Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought. (James Allen)

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Wisdom consists in rising superior both to madness and to common sense. (Henri-Frederic Amiel)

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Is it wise to pray for wisdom? You may find yourself surrounded by fools. (Anonymous)

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There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man. (Aristotle)

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Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. (Aristotle)

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In our wisdom let us not forget, it is the pause that creates the music. (Kathleen Arnason)

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Kindness is wisdom. There is none in life / But needs it, and may learn. (Philip James Bailey)

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- Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story...
The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the ordinary. (Christina Baldwin)

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The great person is ahead of their time, the smart make something out of it, and the blockhead sets themselves against it. (Jean Baudrillard)

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To light one candle to God and another to the Devil is the principle of wisdom. (Jose Bergamin)

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-Master of Stupidity...
We begin to learn wisely when we're willing to see world from other people's perspective. (Toba Beta)

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Wisdom, character, and consciousness conquer everything. (Yogi Bhajan)

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folly, n. That 'gift and faculty divine' whose creative and controlling energy inspires Man's mind, guides his actions and adorns his life. (Ambrose Bierce)

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adage, n. Boned wisdom for weak teeth. (Ambrose Bierce)

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A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. (William Blake)

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The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough. (William Blake)

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The wisest man is generally he who thinks himself the least so. (Nicolas Boileau)

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Man is wise and constantly in quest of more wisdom; but the ultimate wisdom, which deals with beginnings, remains locked in a seed. There it lies, the simplest fact of the universe and at the same time the one which calls forth faith rather than reason. (Hal Borland)

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We're all fools... all the time. It's just we're a different kind each day. We think, I'm not a fool today. I've learned my lesson. I was a fool yesterday but not this morning. Then tomorrow we find out that, yes, we were a fool today too. I think the only way we can grow and get on in this world is to accept the fact we're not perfect and live accordingly. (Ray Bradbury)

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To know you are ignorant is the beginning of wisdom. (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

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Wealth and wisdom are seldom combined, for the person who achieves one no longer desires the other. (Robert Brault)

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Mixing one's wines may be a mistake, but old and new wisdom mix admirably. (Bertolt Brecht)

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Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom. (Merry Browne)

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The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve. (Gautama Buddha)

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A fool flatters himself, a wise man flatters the fool. (Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton)

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Be quick to learn and wise to know. (George Burns)

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If I don't have wisdom, I can teach you only ignorance. (Leo Buscaglia)

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The search for wisdom is a great challenge; to act on wisdom is an even greater challenge. (Chris Butler)

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I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. (Thomas Carlyle)

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Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so. (Dale Carnegie)

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Time ripens all things; no man is born wise. (Miguel de Cervantes)

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The greatest scholars are not usually the wisest people. (Geoffrey Chaucer)

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Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so. (Earl of Chesterfield)

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A man cannot be wise enough to be a great artist without being wise enough to wish to be a philosopher. (G. K. Chesterton)

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Strength and wisdom are not opposing values. (Bill Clinton)

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The wise are wise only because they love. The fools are fools only because they think they can understand love. (Paulo Coelho)

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Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

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A wise man thinks what is easy is difficult. (John Churton Collins)

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A man may as well expect to grow stronger by always eating, as wiser by always reading. (Jeremey Collyer)

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By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest. (Confucius)

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These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future. (Vernon Cooper)

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So wisdom comes with age after all. And what can it tell young artists ready to dash out of school? Don't just do something; sit there. Art takes time. Let your brilliant career have a middle, and a late period, and an end. Let it be long. (B. Holland Cotter)

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Knowledge dwells / in heads replete with thoughts of other men; / Wisdom in minds attentive to their own. (William Cowper)

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A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men. (Roald Dahl)

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A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed. (Nichiren Daishonin)

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It is always advisable to perceive clearly our ignorance. (Charles Darwin)

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Man is aware; he perceives and interprets the world around him. When he uses logic as a tool for interpretation, it becomes science; when he uses feelings for interpretation, it becomes poetry; when he takes a longer view of his observations, it becomes wisdom. (Avtarjeet Dhanjal)

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It takes a wise man to discover a wise man. (Diogenes)

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A memory without the emotional charge is called wisdom. (Joe Dispenza)

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There are two statements about human beings that are true: that all human beings are alike, and that all are different. On those two facts all human wisdom is founded. (Mark van Doren)

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- The Count of Monte Cristo...
All human wisdom is contained in these two words - Wait and Hope. (Alexandre Dumas)

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History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. (Abba Eban)

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Fools usually know best that which the wise despair of ever comprehending. (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach)

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The wise man is seldom prudent. (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach)

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Wisdom consists in doing the next think you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it. (Meister Johann Eckhart)

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He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today. (Tryon Edwards)

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In the vain laughter of folly wisdom hears half its applause. (George Eliot)

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Literature is the garden of wisdom. (James Ellis)

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The man, who has seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight, has been present like an archangel at the creation of light and of the world. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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Of all the things which wisdom acquires to produce the blessedness of the complete life, far the greatest is the possession of friendship. (Epicurus)

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All wisdom ends in paradox. (Jeffrey Eugenides)

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Cleverness is not wisdom. (Euripides)

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Timing, degree and conviction are the three wise men in this life. (R. I. Fitzhenry)

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Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late. (Felix Frankfurter)

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We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. (Benjamin Franklin)

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Just as a cautious businessman avoids tying up all his capital in one concern, so, perhaps, worldly wisdom will advise us not to look for the whole of our satisfaction from a single aspiration. (Sigmund Freud)

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-b.1022 d.1058...
In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence, the second listening, the third remembering, the fourth practicing, the fifth - teaching others. (Solomon Ibn Gabirol)

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It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. (Mahatma Gandhi)

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A great source of calamity lies in regret and anticipation; therefore a person is wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or future. (Oliver Goldsmith)

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No more; where ignorance is bliss, / 'Tis folly to be wise. (Thomas Gray)

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We will sleep for millions and millions of years. Let us use our brief time wisely. (Gary John Gresl)

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In silence there is wisdom. (Hap Hagood)

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When is it wise to allow chance and circumstance to happen and when is it wise to construct out the surrounding forces? (Cherie Hanson)

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There are many branches of learning, but only the one solid tree-trunk of wisdom. (Henry S. Haskins)

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A wise man cares not for what he cannot have. (Jack Herbert)

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- Siddhartha...
Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it. (Hermann Hesse)

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I confess that I have been blind as a mole, but it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all. (Sherlock Holmes)

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The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep. (Edgar Watson Howe)

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Every man is a damned fool for at least five minutes every day. Wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit. (Elbert Hubbard)

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The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. (William James)

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No one ever found wisdom without also being a fool. (Erica Jong)

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Wisdom is knowing what to do next; Skill is knowing how to do it, and Virtue is doing it. (David Starr Jordan)

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Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another. (Juvenal)

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You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This, of course, would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom. (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

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Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life. (Immanuel Kant)

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To take no account of oneself, but always to think well and highly of others is the highest wisdom and perfection. (Thomas a Kempis)

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Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for the reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally. (Baron John Maynard Keynes)

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A great rock is not disturbed by the wind; the mind of a wise man is not disturbed by either honor or abuse. (Dalai Lama)

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A spoon cannot taste of the food it carries. Likewise, a foolish man cannot understand the wise man's wisdom even if he associates with a sage. (Dalai Lama)

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The writing of the wise are the only riches our posterity cannot squander. (Walter Savage Landor)

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A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends. (Niki Lauda)

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Proverbs contradict each other. That is the wisdom of a nation. (Stanislaw Jerzy Lec)

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Inspiration, spirituality, solitude, intuition, creativity, practice, play and reflection are keys to wisdom... aren't we blessed to recognize these necessary phases of art and craft which continually fill our soul? (Antoinette Ledzian)

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It's so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and say the opposite. (Sam Levenson)

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It requires wisdom to understand wisdom; the music is nothing if the audience is deaf. (Walter Lippmann)

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A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

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Contemplation and wisdom are highest achievements and man is not totally at home with them. (Gabriel Marcel)

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Wisdom is knowledge which has become a part of one's being. (Orison Swett Marden)

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We artists are messengers. We bring wisdom to our art from the intuitive self. It is an honest expression, no way akin to copying an image or subject. (Billie F. Mathis)

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This is what Wisdom means: To be changed without the slightest effort on your part, to be transformed, believe it or not, merely by waking to the reality that is not words, that lies beyond the reach of words. (Anthony de Mello)

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To teach is to understand. To learn is wisdom. To learn together is understanding wisdom. (Sid Mendenhall)

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Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat's ear, but only the wisest of cats would think to look there. (Andrew Mercer)

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Oh, wisdom never comes when it is gold, / And the great price we paid for it full worth: / We have it only when we are half earth. / Little avails that coinage to the old! (George Meredith)

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When the container gets too tight, we hit the edge. We need to break through it to see the wisdom in it all. (Gina Mollicone-Long)

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We can be knowledgeable with other men's knowledge but we cannot be wise with other men's wisdom. (Michel de Montaigne)

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The clearest sign of wisdom is continued cheerfulness. (Michel de Montaigne)

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I have always observed that to succeed in the world one should appear like a fool but be wise. (Baron de Montesquieu)

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Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar. (Edward R. Murrow)

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Does wisdom perhaps appear on the earth as a raven which is inspired by the smell of carrion? (Friedrich Nietzsche)

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Clever people master life; the wise illuminate it and create fresh difficulties. (Emil Nolde)

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Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. (George Orwell)

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At times it is folly to hasten, at other times to delay. The wise do everything in its proper time. (Ovid)

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The only difference between the wise man and the fool is that the wise man knows he is playing. (Fritz Perls)

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Cunning... is but the low mimic of wisdom. (Plato)

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Not by age but by capacity is wisdom acquired. (Plautus)

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The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see. (Huang Po)

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For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. (Alexander Pope)

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Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools. (Alexander Pope)

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On the other side, practical wisdom, cannot be acquired. It is a set Herb Caen. Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. . Big words are always punished, And proud men in old age learn to be wise. Sophocles.

New study confirms adage that with age comes wisdom

not by age but by knowledge is wisdom acquired

Results include participants’ self-rating, analysts/raters’ wisdom component and relation ratings, inter-rater reliabilities, the relations between wisdom and significant life learning as specified by participants, and the main themes of significant life learning.

Ratings

Analysts/raters’ Ratings

Table 1 lists the means, standard deviations, and Aiken’s H coefficients from analysts/raters’ ratings for the 475 participants’ responses concerning the motivating ideas, cognitive integration, embodying actions, the positive effects for oneself, the positive effects for others, the relation between the displayed wisdom and significant life learning, and whether participants’ life learning involved wisdom based on analysts/raters’ own judgment.

Table 1

Ratings for Components of Wisdom and Relation between Wisdom and Significant Life Learning

Rating categoriesMSDAiken’s H
Motivating ideas6.740.620.93*
Cognitive integration6.161.310.94*
Embodying actions6.880.420.96*
Positive effects for oneself6.860.440.95*
Positive effects for others5.981.600.91*
Relation6.171.980.98*
Whether life learning involved wisdom (analysts/raters’ own judgment)6.380.850.89*

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These results show that the inter-rater reliabilities were quite high. In general, the analysts/raters agreed that most participants’ displays of wisdom involved the core components of wisdom, that the relation between wisdom and learning chosen by the 475 participants was reasonable and consistent with the descriptions and explanations that the participants provided, and participants’ life learning involved wisdom based on analysts/raters’ own judgment.

Participants’ Self-ratings

The mean of the 475 participants’ self-ratings for whether what they learned made them closer to their conceptions of wisdom was 5.80 (SD = 0.96); the mean rating for whether their display of wisdom was wise was 6.03 (SD = 0.98). This suggests that, in general, participants agreed that their significant life learning brought them closer to their conceptions of wisdom and that their displays of wisdom were, in fact, wise.

Selecting the Analytic Sample

There were three criteria for selection into the analytic sample: (a) the participants’ responses were consistent on repeated questions; (b) the responses on the second questionnaire were deemed wise by the analysts/raters based on the process definition of wisdom (i.e., the responses had a mean wisdom component rating across analysts/raters equal to or above 4 on every wisdom component); and (c) the responses indicated a logical and reasonable relation between the displayed wisdom and the significant life learning (i.e., had a mean relation rating across analysts/raters equal to or above 4 on the specified relation between wisdom and significant life learning).

Three-hundred and seventy-five participants were selected as the analytic sample. Among them, 250 (67%) were females. Most of the participants a had college-level education (nbelow elementary-level education = 1, 0.3%; nelementary-level education = 13, 3%; njunior-high-school level of education = 14, 4%; nsenior-high-school level of education = 35, 9%; ncollege level of education = 228, 61%; nmaster level of graduate education = 78, 21%; ndoctor level of graduate education = 6, 2%). Their ages ranged from 19 to 92, with an average age of 33.23 (n19 = 3, 0.8%; n2029 = 215, 57%; n3039 = 54, 14%; n4049 = 25, 7%; n5059 = 58, 15%; n6069 = 11, 3%; n7079 = 7, 2%; n9192 = 2, 0.5%). Two hundred and ten participants (56%) indicated that they did not believe in any religion, while the remaining 165 (44%) participants believed in folk religion (n = 53, 14%), Christianity (n = 42, 11%; nprotestant = 38, 10%; nCatholic = 4, 1%), Buddhism (n = 35, 9%), Taoism (n = 34, 9%), or other (n = 1, 0.3%). Participants came from 18 provinces. On average, their demographic distribution resembled that of the 475 initial sample with respect to gender (X2(1) = 0.003, p = .95); education (X2(5) = 0.93, p = .97); age (X2(5) (19–29, 30−39, 40−49, 50–59, 60–69, 70 and above) = 1.24, p = .94); and believer status (X2non-believers vs. believers (1) = 0.06, p = .81).

Relations Between Wisdom and Significant Life Learning

The results show that for the analytic sample of 375, participants’ views of the relations between wisdom and significant life learning were distributed in this way among the five types: (a) 191 (51%) participants indicated that their most significant life learning led to their display of wisdom; (b) 91 (24%) participants indicated that their display of wisdom was unrelated to their most significant life learning; (c) 67 (18%) participants indicated that their display of wisdom led to their most significant life learning; (d) 20 (5%) participants indicated that their display of wisdom was part of their most significant life learning; and (f) 6 (2%) participants indicated that their most significant life learning was part of their displays of wisdom.

Thus all five relations exist between displays of wisdom and significant life learning, and the reported frequencies differed from an equal distribution (X2(4) = 287.49, p < .000). Post hoc tests showed that this distribution had significantly more “learning led to wisdom” (Std. Residual = 13.39, p < .000), and significantly fewer “wisdom is part of learning” (Std. Residual = −6.35, p < .000) and “learning is part of wisdom” (Std. Residual = −7.97, p = .001). The reported frequency of “wisdom led to learning” (Std. Residual = −0.92, p = .36) and “no relation” (Std. Residual = 1.85, p = .07) did not differ from the equal distribution.

See Table 2 for the participants’ demographic information in the five groups. Results of Chi square tests showed that there were no significant differences in the distribution of participants’ age (X2(24) = 26.22, p = .34; X2(8) (19–29, 30–39, 40 and above) = 14.78, p = .06), gender (X2(4) = 5.54, p < .24), and education level (X2(22) = 22.38, p = .32; X2(8) (senior high and below, college, master and above) = 14.57, p = .07) among the five groups.

Table 2

Demographic Information on Participants among the Five Categories

CategoriesLearning led to wisdomNo relationWisdom led to learningWisdom is part of learningLearning is part of wisdom
N/n1919167206
Female1356038125
Education
Elementary and below102200
Junior high72230
Senior high194840
College1066442115
Master45181221
Doctoral41100
Age (range)20–9119–6020–9219–6220–40
Mean age34.7728.2435.243628
19–291016636114
30–3929121111
40–49182311
50–5932101150
60–6951320
70–7950200
90–9210100

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Significant Learning Led to Wisdom

One hundred and ninety-one participants stated that they learned important lessons from their significant experience, and that such learning set the foundation for a later display of wisdom. For example, a 52-year-old male explained that the lessons he learned from his father’s death were to live a healthy lifestyle and treasure his time with family members. His display of wisdom involved embodying an integration of different areas of life by turning down an offer for a high-paid job that would have required him to work in mainland China and live separately from his family. His explanation for the relation between the two experiences was this: “Father’s sudden death let me realize the importance of health and family. Had I not learned from the past experience, I would definitely have chosen that high-paid job” (Participant No. 527, manager, college-level education, non-believer).

No Relation

Ninety-one participants indicated that there was no relation between their display of wisdom and their significant life learning, even though most participants’ self-ratings showed that they agreed that what they learned brought them closer to their conceptions of wisdom (M = 5.78, SD = 1.16). For example, a 53-year-old man described how his significant life learning came from reconciling with his elder brother from whom he had been estranged after a quarrel many years before. He learned that, no matter how irredeemable the relationship had been, a broken relationship could be mended by initiating short conversations as long as one person was willing to make a move toward the other. His display of wisdom involved embodying an integration of self and other by helping his daughter to see a doctor after spotting a rash on her daughter’s skin that later proved to be shingles, a very painful skin disease. He explained, “My daughter, who did not have a good relationship with me then, thought it was just a common rash and would go away naturally. But I had the experience of having shingles and know that a person will not suffer severe pain in the beginning. I spent much time nagging and eventually persuaded my daughter to see my former doctor who cured my daughter’s disease. My daughter was very grateful to me because she did not suffer any pain” (Participant No. 507, interior decoration worker, junior high level of education, Buddhist). On the third questionnaire, this participant explained, “There were similarities, so in the beginning I thought these two experiences were related, but after thinking more carefully, I did not see how one led to the other or have any relation.”

Wisdom Led to Significant Life Learning

Sixty-seven participants indicated that their displays of wisdom led to their significant life learning. Their wisdom was often displayed in their choice of schools, majors, professions, jobs, or partner; such displays of wisdom opened up new doors for their most significant learning in life. For example, a man described that the wisest thing he had done in his life was, after integrating his weaknesses and strengths as well as the positives and negatives of a situation, to choose to attend a specialized school that suited him rather than attending the more prestigious general high school which equipped students to pass the highly competitive national university entrance exam. He explained that although this decision/action went against social convention, his choice freed him from the high academic pressure of the general high school curriculum. As a result, he was motivated to learn more. His significant life learning began when he started to take practica in mechanical engineering. He acquired new ways and habits of learning and eventually earned his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering. Hence, his display of wisdom led to his most significant life learning (Participant No. 440, 43 years old, mechanical engineering, doctoral-level education, folk religion).

A woman explained that as an accountant, she could work in big corporate enterprises, but that her decision to be an accountant in a kindergarten “was a wise decision.” She explained that even though her family had to move to another city, she liked the job and enjoyed her working environment. Her significant learning began after she was settled in her job. She learned from the kindergarten how to treat and teach her children appropriately. She said, “Even though people all say that we should educate our children with love, most my friends and relatives cannot do so without using the rod, and they had difficulty believing that we never used any physical punishment on our children…. Now my children all grown up having stable and warm personality, and they are well-liked by people and among relatives” (Participant No. 652, 52 years old, accounting, college-level education, Christian).

Wisdom is Part of Significant Learning

Twenty participants’ significant life learning, such as changing their general attitude and practice toward life, were lengthy processes. Thus, they displayed wisdom while they were still completing their learning. For example, a 44-year-old man described that because his long-expected child turned out to have epilepsy, he had been learning for many years to accept and care for his child. He was still learning as his child grew; nevertheless, he had displayed wisdom through embodying an integration of self and others. Thus far, he had helped many parents whose children also had epilepsy and, in particular, had dissuaded his colleague at work from hiding his epileptic son at home by not sending him to school (Participant No. 529, hairstylist, junior-high-school-level education, Buddhist).

Significant Learning is Part of Wisdom

Of the six participants whose responses fell into this category, four were Christian women with college educations. Three displayed their wisdom through believing in God or reaffirming the Christian faith; since such processes usually take a long time, they acquired their most significant life learning within their wisdom process. Hence, their most significant life learning was part of their displays of wisdom.

For example, a 40-year-old woman described that the wisest thing she had ever done in life was, after integrating negatives with positives, deciding to go back to church every Sunday after her husband had been cheated by others and the whole family was seriously in debt. She explained, “10 years ago, my husband helped his younger brother and became his guarantor, but my husband was cheated and was in debt for more than ten million dollars [three hundred thousand U.S. dollars]. Before this event, my husband often arranged family trips on the weekend and it was almost impossible for us to go to church on Sunday. But when this event occurred, we lost focus in life and I was very scared. At that moment I thought of God and felt that He alone can help us…. The moment I was in church, I knew I had made the wisest choice. Within every 1-and half-hour service, I pieced my then-broken self together through God’s love and faced difficulties with positive energy. Life paying back debt was harsh, but we had gone through it and my relationship with my husband was strengthened” (Participant No. 025, teacher, college-level education). Since then, she has kept this spiritual practice. Her most significant life learning was learning to lean on God when she switched to a more highly-paid job so she could help with her family debt, only to find out that her boss cheated her. She learned to refrain from any hasty decisions when in distress but to pray for God’s guidance and let go of any negative emotions. Thus, her most significant life learning was part of her wisdom.

Main Themes of Significant Life Learning

The results of categorizing participants’ significant learning showed that most participants’ significant life lessons were related to changing their existing general life philosophy or revising attitudes toward life (n = 203, 54%). Other main themes of significant life learning included gaining a new insight for life (n = 55, 15%), self-related learning (n = 21, 5.6%), learning related to friendship and other interpersonal relationship (n = 16, 4.3%), learning related to romantic relationship (n = 13, 3.4%), and family-related learning (n = 9, 2.4%).

Possible Similarities and Differences Between Different Types of Learning

Although not the main focus of this study, it is worth exploring whether these data indicate that significant life learning has different characteristics when it is related to wisdom and when it is not, and whether learning that was preceded by wisdom differs from learning that led to wisdom. I begin this inquiry with some basic statistics.

Between Wisdom-related Learning and Learning Unrelated to Wisdom

Participants’ self-ratings for wisdom did not differ significantly on average between wisdom-related learning (Mwisdomrelated = 5.80, SD = 0.96) and non-wisdom-related learning (Mnonwisdomrelated = 5.77, SD = 0.98; t(373) = 0.18, p = .86). Nor did the learning unrelated to wisdom differ from wisdom-related life learning in the distribution of the main learning categories (X2(5) = 8.87, p = .11). However, analysts/raters’ wisdom ratings were significantly higher for wisdom-related learning (Mwisdom related = 6.44, SD = 0.80) than learning that participants perceived as unrelated to wisdom (M = 6.28, SD = 0.92; t(353.32) = 2.41, p < .05, d = 0.32, 95% CI [0.03, 0.29]).

Between Learning that Led to Wisdom and Learning that Was Preceded by Wisdom

Participants’ self-ratings for wisdom in learning that was preceded by wisdom (Mlearning led by wisdom = 5.93, SD = 0.91) were a bit higher on average than learning that led to wisdom (Mlearning led to wisdom = 5.76, SD = 0.99), but the difference did not reach a significant level (t(256) = −1.17, p = .24). Analysts/raters’ wisdom ratings for these two kinds of life learning did not differ significantly (Mlearning led to wisdom = 6.44, SD = 0.81; Mlearning led by wisdom = 6.42, SD = 0.78; t(647) = 2.39, p = .81). Nor did the two kinds of wisdom-related learning differ in the distribution of the main learning categories (X2(5) = 6.71, p = .24).

Wisdom is defined as the ability to use your knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgements. May these quotes inspire you to be a wise person, not just in thought but most Life humbles you so deeply as you age. “ Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” Albert.

not by age but by knowledge is wisdom acquired
Written by Zugore
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