Ursula M. Staudinger

Research in Human Development, 2008


Wisdom is a phenomenon characterized by a rich cultural history and complex associations. Across cultures and history, wisdom has been discussed as the ideal of human knowledge and character. Starting from the dictionary definition of wisdom as “good judgment and advice in difficult and uncertain matters of life,” psychologists have described wisdom as the search for the moderate course between extremes, a dynamic between knowledge and doubt, a sufficient detachment from the problem at hand, and a well-balanced coordination of emotion, motivation, and thought. Within psychological research on wisdom, two broad approaches can be distinguished. One is the study of lay conceptions of wisdom, and the other is the measurement of wisdom in individuals. In the latter case a personal and a general form of wisdom needs to be distinguished. Age trajectories and antecedents of general and personal wisdom are discussed.