Wisdom is a social-ecological rather than person-centric phenomenon

Igor Grossmann, Anna Dorfman, Harrison Oakes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Typical approaches to study practical wisdom are person-centric, use flawed methods, and produce insights of little relevance to the construct's definition. We propose that understanding the processes underlying practical wisdom requires a social-ecological framework, supported by emerging empirical insights. Wise reasoning (i.e., intellectual humility, open-mindedness, recognition of broader perspectives and possible changes, integration of diverse viewpoints) varies dramatically across cultures, regions, economic strata, and situational contexts. By adopting a social-ecological perspective, psychologists can address some paradoxes about wisdom, including biases and errors in decontextualized versus context-variable assessments and a greater propensity for wise reasoning about social versus personal challenges, despite greater knowledge about personal issues. Moreover, an ecological perspective suggests that the propensity for wisdom in the population can also shape its ecology and surroundings. This new approach to wisdom is enriching our understanding and exploration of practical wisdom as a mental process and an ecological asset for societies at large.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-71
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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