Overview of Academic Research on Wisdom

Introduction (Via Wisdom Page)

Historically, wisdom has been most widely mentioned and discussed in religious and philosophical writings (Kekes 1983; Birren and Svensson 2005; Osbeck and Robinson 2005). Writers have usually focused on what makes a person wise (e.g., abilities, traits) or how wisdom unfolds over a lifetime or in a specific decision context. The Bible, for instance, includes several stories of people acting wisely during difficult circumstances, with Job and Solomon being among the most scrutinized (see, e.g., Achenbaum and Orwoll 1991). Aristotle writes about two kinds of wisdom, the philosophical and the practical (Clayton and Birren 1980; Schwartz and Sharpe 2006). Practical wisdom signifies the variety of beha-vioral wisdom found in everyday life (Brown 2005), including executive decision making. Generally speak-ing, practical wisdom is ”the capacity to recognize the essentials of what we encounter and to respond well and fittingly to those circumstances” (Fowers 2003, p. 415).

The rise of science during the Renaissance signaled (rather ironically) a decline of interest in the concept of human wisdom per se (Assmann 1994). By the early twentieth century, the success of science, relative to wis-dom, was lamented by several cultural commentators (e.g., T. S. Eliot [1934, The Rock]: ”All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance …. Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?”). Wisdom was dis-regarded for several decades in modern social science particularly, due to highly mechanistic or strictly cogni-tive paradigms on human nature, and a devaluation of the moral dimensions of good decisions and follow-through behavior. However, with the rise of postmodernism breaking down boundaries between the humanities and the social sciences (Assmann 1994), and with the rise of positive psychology (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000) encouraging a focus on human flourishing, new momentum and credibility for the study of wisdom were established. Recent research has been multifaceted, but leading nonetheless to insights that converge in numer-ous ways as generalized theory and understanding about wisdom (Birren and Svensson 2005) .

Conclusion (Via Wisdom Page)

Although the social science of wisdom is still nascent, the early empirical insights are intriguing. Researchers have found that wisdom is (1) distinct from intelligence; (2) positively associated with open-mindedness, mastery, maturity, psychological, and physical well-being, effective stress management, self-actualization, and successful aging; and (3) negatively related to depressive symptoms, feelings of economic pressure, and fear of death (Stern-berg 1990; Ardelt 2004; Peterson and Seligman 2004, chap. 8; Sternberg and Jordan 2005; Baltes and Smith 2008). Scholarly attention to wisdom in business has begun to appear (Srivastava and Cooperrider 1998; Sternberg 2003; McLyman 2005; Kessler and Bailey 2007), but these works are either strictly conceptual, oriented solely toward the management field (not mar-keting), or focus on organizational level analysis (not individuals and their decision making or behaviors).

Click Here To Read: Overview of Prior Research on Wisdom

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15. February 2010 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Wisdom Seeking | Leave a comment

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