Whether you are alone or with friends can affect how wisely you reason, a new study reveals.

People actually demonstrate varying levels of wisdom in different situations. For their research, a team from University of Waterloo in Canada defined wisdom as a combination of abilities including intellectual humility, self-transcendence and consideration of other perspectives or compromise.

Wise reasoning, while drastically varying or fluctuating from one case to another, may be promoted by certain situations individuals find themselves in.

“This research does not dismiss that there is a personality component to wisdom, but that’s not the whole picture,” explained lead study author and professor Igor Grossman, arguing that situations in daily life affect one’s personality as well as ability to wisely reason.

The team conducted a daily diary study of wise reasoning through recording participants’ reflections on everyday challenges. They then observed differences in wise reasoning in both social and non-social contexts.

According to Grossman, it is not quite an “anomaly” that people known to have a critical acumen or ethical expertise may lack such capacity at times, reminding that one cannot constantly be at the top of his or her game in terms of wisdom.

Different researchers may learn more about everyday wisdom-promoting situations and recreate them by more closely examining conditions under which someone is likely or not to exhibit wisdom, Grossman added.

For the next phase of their research, the team is looking to assess wisdom based on situations. It is hoped to be the first longitudinal study that can help people reason wisely in their lives.

Last April, the same team published their research noting that heartbeat fluctuations may affect one’s wisdom. People with a greater heart rate variability maintained brains with better executive workings, therefore allowing them to make wiser judgment.

The behavioral sciences suggest that cognitive functioning alone does not drive aspects of wise judgment — instead, the heart may play a critical role in wisdom.

The new findings were discussed in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Photo: Pascal Maramis | Flickr

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