A new scale for assessing wisdom based on common domains and a neurobiological model: The San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE)

J Psychiatr Res. 2019 Jan:108:40-47. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.09.005. Epub 2017 Sep 8.


Wisdom is an ancient concept that has gained new interest among clinical researchers as a complex trait relevant to well-being and healthy aging. As the empirical data regarding wisdom have grown, several measures have been used to assess an individual's level of wisdom. However, none of these measures has been based on a construct of wisdom with neurobiological underpinnings. We sought to develop a new scale, the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE), which builds upon recent gains in the understanding of psychological and neurobiological models of the trait. Data were collected from 524 community-dwelling adults age 25-104 years as part of a structured multi-cohort study of adult lifespan. Participants were administered the SD-WISE along with two existing measures of wisdom that have been shown to have good psychometric properties. Factor analyses confirmed the hypothesized measurement model. SD-WISE total scores were reliable, demonstrated convergent and discriminant validity, and correlated, as hypothesized, negatively with emotional distress, but positively with well-being. However, the magnitudes of these associations were small, suggesting that the SD-WISE is not just a global measure of mental state. The results support the reliability and validity of SD-WISE scores. Study limitations are discussed. The SD-WISE, with good psychometric properties, a brief administration time, and a measurement model that is consistent with commonly cited content domains of wisdom based on a putative neurobiological model, may be useful in clinical practice as well as in bio-psycho-social research, especially investigations into the neurobiology of wisdom and experimental interventions to enhance wisdom.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emotions
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Healthy Aging / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality*
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Psychometrics
  • Self Report
  • Social Behavior
  • Stress, Psychological