These seven questions can predict how wise you are, new study finds

Wisdom is considered a personality trait that can be cultivated and is closely linked to overall well-being.

A recent study conducted by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine reveals the effectiveness of a concise seven-item scale in accurately assessing an individual's level of wisdom. Wisdom is considered a personality trait that can be cultivated and is closely linked to overall well-being.

Prior to this study, the research team had created the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE-28), a comprehensive 28-item assessment tool. This scale has been widely employed in large-scale national and international research initiatives, as well as in biological investigations and clinical trials to gauge levels of wisdom.

In a study recently published in International Psychogeriatrics, researchers have unveiled a condensed seven-item version (known as SD-WISE-7 or Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index) that has demonstrated comparable reliability.

"Wisdom measures are increasingly being used to study factors that impact mental health and optimal aging. We wanted to test if a list of only seven items could provide valuable information to test wisdom," stated senior author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, who serves as the senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Previous research has established that wisdom can be delineated into seven key components: "self-reflection, pro-social behaviors (such as empathy, compassion, and altruism), emotional regulation, acceptance of diverse perspectives, decisiveness, social advising (such as giving rational and helpful advice to others), and spirituality."

In the most recent investigation, 2,093 participants between the ages of 20 and 82 were surveyed using the online crowdsourcing platform Amazon Mechanical Turk.

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The seven statements, selected from SD-WISE-28, relate to the seven components of wisdom and are rated on a 1 to 5 scale, from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

The seven statements included within the SD-WISE 7 are:

  • I remain calm under pressure

  • I avoid self-reflection

  • I enjoy being exposed to diverse viewpoints

  • I tend to postpone making major decisions as long as I can

  • I often don't know what to tell people when they come to me for advice

  • My spiritual belief gives me inner strength

  • I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed

“Shorter doesn’t mean less valid,” said Jeste. “We selected the right type of questions to get important information that not only contributes to the advancement of science but also supports our previous data that wisdom correlates with health and longevity.”

Furthermore, the SD-WISE-7 exhibited robust and positive associations with resilience, happiness, and mental well-being, while displaying significant and negative correlations with loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

“There are evidence-based interventions to increase levels of specific components of wisdom, which would help reduce loneliness and promote overall well-being,” said Jeste.

“Like the COVID-19 vaccine protects us from the novel coronavirus, wisdom can aid in protecting us from loneliness. Thus, we can potentially help end a behavioral pandemic of loneliness, suicides and opioid abuse that has been going on for the last 20 years.”

The upcoming stages involve conducting comprehensive studies on diverse populations, encompassing genetic, biological, psychosocial, and cultural aspects to evaluate wisdom.

Additionally, these studies will explore a wide range of factors linked to the mental, physical, and cognitive well-being of individuals throughout their entire lives.

“We need wisdom for surviving and thriving in life. Now, we have a list of questions that take less than a couple of minutes to answer that can be put into clinical practice to try to help individuals,” said Jeste.

Co-authors include: Michael Thomas with Colorado State University; and Barton Palmer, Ellen Lee, Jinyuan Liu, Rebecca Daly and Xin Tu, all with UC San Diego.

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Joseph Shavit
Joseph ShavitSpace, Technology and Medical News Writer
Joseph Shavit is the head science news writer with a passion for communicating complex scientific discoveries to a broad audience. With a strong background in both science, business, product management, media leadership and entrepreneurship, Joseph possesses the unique ability to bridge the gap between business and technology, making intricate scientific concepts accessible and engaging to readers of all backgrounds.