The Many Faces of Wisdom: An Investigation of Cultural-Historical Wisdom Exemplars Reveals Practical, Philosophical, and Benevolent Prototypes

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2016 May;42(5):662-76. doi: 10.1177/0146167216638075. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

Abstract

Psychological research on wisdom has flourished in the last 30 years, much of it investigating laypeople's implicit theories of wisdom. In three studies, we took an exemplar and prototype approach to implicit wisdom theories by asking participants to nominate one or more cultural-historical figures of wisdom. Study 1 revealed that individuals draw from a wide range of wisdom exemplars, with substantial agreement on the most iconic figures. In Study 2, multidimensional scaling analysis of exemplars revealed practical, philosophical, and benevolent prototypes; follow-up analyses indicated that prototypes differed in familiarity, likability, and perceived wisdom. Study 3 showed that individuals nominated exemplars from the practical prototype more frequently than from the philosophical and benevolent prototypes and that prototype nomination depended in part on nominator characteristics. These studies suggest that exemplar- and prototype-based implicit wisdom theories are consistent with explicit psychological theories of wisdom.

Keywords: exemplars; implicit theories; narrative; prototypes; wisdom.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Beneficence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality*
  • Young Adult