Scientists have developed a new tool that can measure a person’s wisdom – a trait believed to be governed by specific regions of the brain. Studies suggest that wisdom may be defined by six specific domains and that these domains are linked to distinct regions of the brain, based upon neuroimaging and other scientific evidence.
For example, the domain of prosocial attitudes and behaviours, such as empathy, altruism and social cooperation, is facilitated by the prefrontal cortex (PFC), located in the front part of the brain and responsible to complex executivefunctions.
The other domains are social decision-making, pragmatic knowledge of life, emotional regulation, reflection, self-understanding, tolerance of diverse values, and ability to effectively deal with uncertainty and ambiguity in life. The new tool called San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) measured five of the six targeted domains, and made effective distinctions between individuals’ differing degrees of wisdom. The sixth domain – social decision-making – was partially covered as “social advising.”
“SD-WISE reflects the latest thinking. We believe it may be a useful tool in clinical practice, in addition to its value in bio-psycho-social research, especially investigations into the neurobiology of wisdom and possible interventions to enhance it,” said Dilip Jeste, professor at University of California, San Diego in the US. Researchers recruited participants aged 25 to 104, who were administered the SD-WISE along with two existing measures: the 12-item Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale and the 40-item Self-Assessed Wisdom Scale.
SD-WISE differed from the other scales in that its set of statements (which participants agreed or disagreed with on a scale of one to five) was predicated upon a literature review and an expert consensus. The results showed that SD-WISE is a reliable and valid scale, said Jeste. Wisdom, as measured with SD-WISE, correlated with measures of psychological well-being. The overall results supported the notion that wisdom is a specific entity with different components.
“This was a first field test of SD-WISE and results are encouraging, but more work remains. Its reliability and validity need to be evaluated further across different socio-cultural, racial-ethnic and national samples,” said Jeste. “With SD-WISE and other measures, existing or yet to be created, we can study wisdom and its development across the lifespan,” he said. “Advances in neuroimaging, genetics and other sciences can help reveal how wisdom works biologically within the brain,” he added.
“These tools provide us with the ability to study, understand and possibly influence the development of wisdom in unprecedented ways,” he said. The study was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.