What are sources of wisdom

Sources of wisdom and killers of wisdom

Thanks to Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and many other platforms, networks and databases, every internet user nowadays has access to an infinite amount of information and knowledge. If you are puzzling over a physical phenomenon, looking for a recipe or want to identify a plant - someone in the network will know or know someone who does. James Surowiecki, editor of The New Yorker magazine, researched this phenomenon many years ago and published a book on it: "The wisdom of the many. Why groups are smarter than individuals" (2004). Surowiecki uses many examples to show that the gathering of information in groups leads to decisions that are often better than the solutions of individuals. But are we really getting wiser in the crowd? Does more knowledge automatically lead to more wisdom?

Judith Glück, professor for developmental psychology at the University of Klagenfurt, has been concerned with the question of what wisdom is, how it can be measured and how it can be achieved since 1999. She says: "There is a lot of knowledge nowadays, but the question is whether it can also be used." Because we also have something else more and more that, according to the researcher's experience, is a wisdom killer: time pressure.

The MORE principles

Everyone basically thinks they know what wisdom is. Even children have an idea of ​​this, be it through fictional characters like Master Yoda or the magician Merlin. 50 percent of six-year-olds and more than 90 percent of ten-year-olds know the term wisdom and can define it, says Judith Glück. A wise person is smart and kind, can give advice to others, and deal with problems well. However, it is extremely difficult to explore wisdom and establish measurable criteria. For psychological wisdom research, a relatively young discipline, women scientists have developed questionnaires and conducted numerous interviews. You presented test subjects with fictitious problems and asked them for solutions. They have studied people of different ages and in different professional contexts, and they have had people who have been referred to as wise by others share their life experiences and wise choices.

Time and again it has been shown that wisdom is difficult to grasp: "The same person reacted very wisely once and not another time. Obviously, one can be wise differently from situation to situation," says Judith Glück. We all know this: When you're angry or stressed, making a wise decision is more difficult and you may say something that you would have pinched yourself in a different emotional state. Because wisdom requires a good portion of serenity. By the way, it is easier to be wise about others than it is about yourself.

Despite the difficulty of measuring wisdom on a scientifically sound basis, Judith Glück and her research team have identified five principles of a successful life: openness to new experiences and the willingness to revise ideas; Perceive and take seriously your own feelings, but also regulate them; Compassion and empathy; critical reflection and self-questioning; as well as overcoming the illusion of being able to control everything. In English, these five principles are summarized with the abbreviation MORE (mastery, openness, reflectivity, emotions, empathy).

These principles also make it clear that access to knowledge alone does not result in wisdom. Because for wise decisions you have to have a lot of experience. That is why wise people tend to be older. However, the researchers also got to know 30-year-olds who make wise decisions, and it is certainly agreed that not all older people are wise. A second important aspect is a certain attitude, in English this is called a "mindset". A wise person who is asked for advice will not immediately burst out with a solution and explain to the other person what to do. Rather, he or she will inquire, weigh up, consider different aspects and only then carefully give a recommendation - or even help the questioner to come to a solution himself.

Studies with managers

In studies with managers, Judith Glück has seen that the cleverest is not always the wisest: "If you are in a high position, do not experience contradictions and are too sure that you are right, that can also be a wisdom killer." This is where the Internet comes into play again: If you have no one in your own environment with whom he or she can train to look at different sides of a problem, you can do so, for example, via the online platform reddit.com, recommends Judith Glück. There are groups like "change my view" or "convince me that", where you can argue freely on various questions and learn something from them. Because it is important for good decisions, writes James Surowiecki, when groups are heterogeneous - and this diversity is also valued.