Can you ascertain a person’s level of wisdom based on asking them just seven questions?
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have said you can.
The team of researchers have developed a seven-item scale (SD-WISE-7) that can help determine, with high validity, a person’s level of wisdom, which is a potentially modifiable personality trait that has been shown to have a strong association with wellbeing.
The scale assesses things like decisiveness, self-reflection, social advising capabilities, prosocial behaviours, acceptance of different viewpoints, emotional regulation and spirituality.
The study’s researchers had previously developed the 28-item San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE-28), which has been used in large national and international studies, biological research and clinical trials to evaluate wisdom.
But they also found the seven-item version was comparable and reliable.
“Wisdom measures are increasingly being used to study factors that impact mental health and optimal aging,” senior author Dilip V. Jeste said.
Dr Jeste said the most recent study surveyed 2093 participants aged 20 to 82, asking them to rank seven key questions on a 1 to 5, or strongly disagree to strongly agree, scale.
The questions were:
- I tend to postpone making major decisions as long as I can. (Decisiveness)
- I avoid self-reflection. (Self-reflection)
- I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed. (Prosocial behaviors)
- I often don’t know what to tell people when they come to me for advice. (Social advising)
- I remain calm under pressure. (Emotional regulation)
- I enjoy being exposed to diverse viewpoints. (Acceptance of divergent perspectives)
- My spiritual belief gives me inner strength. (Spirituality)
Dr Jeste, who is also the senior associate dean for the Centre of Healthy Ageing and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, said just because the scale was shorter didn’t mean it was less valid or accurate.
“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,” he said.
The scale was also found to strongly and positively correlate with resilience, happiness and mental wellbeing and strongly and negatively correlate 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,” Dr Jeste said.
“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.”
Next steps include genetic, biological, psychosocial and cultural studies of large numbers of diverse populations to assess wisdom, as well as various factors related to mental, physical and cognitive health in people across the lifespan.
“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,” Dr Jeste said.