Are You Wise? Here is a 5 Factor Checklist Based on Research


“A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” – David Hume

What is wisdom? Wisdom can be defined as an expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life, and it has five major components, research shows (Baltes & Staudinger, 2000):

  1. Rich procedural knowledge about life: knowledge about human nature, development, relationsships, social norms, and major life events
  2. Rich factual knowledge about life: knowledge about decision-making, conflict resolution, importance of life goals
  3. An understanding of lifespan contexts: a broad temporal perspective of life as past, present and future. An awareness that life involves many different contexts
  4. An awareness of the relativism of values and priorities: an acknowledgement of the role of subjectivism
  5. The ability to recognize and manage uncertainty: acknowledgement of the uncertainty of life

Research by Baltes & Staudinger (2000) examined the relationship between a number of variables and wisdom-related performance in adults.

This research shows that wisdom is a result of multiple sources and attributes, which you can see below (click to enlarge the graph).

wisdom graph

Now, I will present the data. As this graph illustrates, intelligence explains 15% of the variance in wisdom-related performance, while personality-intelligence explains 35%, personality traits 21%, and life experience 26%.

This basically means that intelligence accounts for 15% of the difference between people who are wise and people who are not, based on their wisdom-related performance, and so on.

The authors did not find a significant relationship between age and wisdom-related performance, so it may rule out the common assumption that age and wisdom go together.

However, life experience is predictive of wisdom-related performance. So the way we use our experience is probably more important than age itself.

Finally, the results suggest that wisdom rises steadily from age 13 to 25 and then remains relatively stable through to age 75.

Image: ryanophilly