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EBW Dispatches: The New Science of Practical Wisdom

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The EBW Dispatches Series reports the latest developments from the frontline of wisdom research. Key findings are highlighted and illuminated – with a little help from the researchers themselves. The relevant papers can be found at the end of the dispatch.



EBW Dispatches - The New Science of Practical Wisdom


THE NEW SCIENCE OF PRACTICAL WISDOM – A Collaborative Paper

Introducing the science of wisdom research to the broader academic community


In June 2018, University of California San Diego’s Center for Healthy Aging hosted the Wisdom, Compassion, and Longevity Symposium. On the second day of the symposium, USCD’s Dr Dilip Jeste, Senior Associate Dean for Healthy Aging and Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, gathered a team of leading academics – including neurologists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, psychologists, moral philosophers, and epidemiologists – to produce a paper entitled ‘The New Science of Practical Wisdom’.
The aim of the joint paper was to introduce the science of wisdom research to the broader academic community. Evidence-Based Wisdom was invited to help write the paper, and the piece has now been published by Johns Hopkins University Press in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine.

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Abstract



The abstract of the paper is as follows: 

‘Wisdom has been discussed for centuries in religious and philosophical texts. It is often viewed as a fuzzy psychological construct analogous to consciousness, stress, and resilience. This essay provides an understanding of wisdom as a scientific construct, based on empirical research starting in the 1970s. The focus is on practical rather than theoretical wisdom. While there are different conceptualizations of wisdom, it is best defined as a complex human characteristic or trait with specific components: social decision-making, emotional regulation, prosocial behavior (such as empathy and compassion), self-reflection, acceptance of uncertainty, decisiveness, and spirituality. These psychological processes involve the fronto-limbic circuitry. Wisdom is associated with positive life outcomes including better health, well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience. Wisdom tends to increase with active aging, facilitating a contribution of wise grandparents to promoting fitness of younger kin. Despite the loss of their own fertility and physical health, older adults help enhance their children’s and grandchildren’s well-being, health, longevity, and fertility—the “grandmother hypothesis” of wisdom. Wisdom has important implications at individual and societal levels and is a major contributor to human thriving. We need to place a greater emphasis on promoting wisdom through our educational systems from elementary to professional schools.’


Wisdom is associated with positive life outcomes including better health, well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience.



Overview



The paper is broad and interdisciplinary in scope, including contributions from neurologists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, psychologists, moral philosophers, and epidemiologists. The following topics are covered in the paper:


1: Defining Wisdom


2: Measuring Wisdom


3: The Biology of Wisdom

A Putative Model of the Neurobiology of Wisdom

Charting the Evolution of the Wise Brain

Grandparent Genes and Population Resilience


4: Wisdom, Context & Culture

The Power of the Situation

Wisdom and the Meaning of Life


5: Wisdom & Aging

Older and Happier?

Wisdom and Adversity: The Tragedy and Opportunity of Trauma

Wisdom-related Neuroplasticity of Aging


6: Wisdom & Health

Learning from Other Communities: Centenarians in Cilento


7: Building Wiser Societies

Wisdom & Compassion Training

Using Technology Wisely

Gross National Wisdom? Introducing a Wisdom Index

Wisdom as a Vaccine Against Three Modern Epidemics


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Contributors



The paper is the result of a collaboration between the following authors:

Dilip V. Jeste, MD, University of California San Diego – Co-first Author

Ellen E. Lee, MD, University of California San Diego – Co-first Author

Charles Cassidy, MPhys, Evidence-Based Wisdom – Co-first Author

Rachel Caspari, PhD, Central Michigan University

Pascal Gagneux, PhD, University of California San Diego

Danielle Glorioso, MSW, University of California San Diego

Bruce L. Miller, MD, University of California San Francisco

Katerina Semendeferi, PhD, University of California San Diego

Candace Vogler, PhD, University of Chicago

Howard Nusbaum, PhD, University of Chicago – Co-Senior Author

Dan Blazer, MD, PhD, MPH, Duke University – Co-Senior Author


The authors would like to acknowledge the support from the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging and the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

The authors would also like to thank all of our colleagues who attended the discussion session of the Wisdom, Compassion, and Longevity Symposium of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging in June 2018: Drs. Hortensia Amaro, James Brewer, Shu Chien, Angela Diaz, Joel Dimsdale, Salvatore Di Somma, Lisa Eyler, Jay Giedd, Alana Iglewicz, Tracy Lustig, Bill Mobley, Ramesh Rao, Peter Salk, Nick Spitzer, and William Vega.



Companion Animation



EBW has produced a companion animation for the paper, including audio interviews from several of the papers authors.  The animation gives an overview of what was covered in the paper, just with fewer words and more pictures. Coming soon….!


We need to place a greater emphasis on promoting wisdom through our educational systems from elementary to professional schools.



Reference



The paper is published in the Spring 2019 issue of the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine by Johns Hopkins University Press, and can be found here.


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If you have any thoughts about the dispatch, please get in touch.

You can contact me at charles@evidencebasedwisdom.com, via the about page or find me on twitter @EBasedwisdom.

Charles

ON WISDOM Podcast – Episode 19: The Individual and The Culture (with Adam Grant)

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The On Wisdom podcast features a social-cognitive scientist in Toronto and an educator in London discussing the latest empirical science regarding the nature of wisdom. Igor Grossmann runs the Wisdom & Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Charles Cassidy runs the Evidence-Based Wisdom project in London, UK. The podcast thrives on a diet of freewheeling conversation on wisdom and decision-making, and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioural scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast.


ABOUT THIS EPISODE


Can an individual really change a culture?

Who are the ‘culture carriers’ and why are they so important?

Does morality stand in the way of making a profit?



Organisational Psychologist Adam Grant joins Igor and Charles to discuss cultures of non-conformity and giving in the workplace, the perils of cognitive entrenchment, the critical role of culture carriers, and why we should be managing our attention rather than our time. Igor delights in learning of the astoundingly high frequency of dancers among Nobel prize winners, Adam suggests that moral arguments still trump bottom-line arguments in the boardroom, and Charles learns that the secret route to culture change might be found in asking your boss for advice.

Welcome to Episode 19.


Click here to listen to ‘Episode 19: The Individual and The Culture (with Adam Grant)’ in full

Click here to visit the On Wisdom Podcast site.
Click here to get to the podcast through iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the podcast through your chosen app.

If you have any thoughts about the On Wisdom podcast, please get in touch.

You can get in contact at charles@evidencebasedwisdom.com, via the about page or find me on twitter @EBasedwisdom. You can also contact us through the On Wisdom site here or find us on twitter @onwisdompodcast.

ON WISDOM Podcast Episode 18: The End of the World is Nigh – Polarised Tribes, Passionate Words, and the Partisan Brain (with Jay Van Bavel)

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The On Wisdom podcast features a social-cognitive scientist in Toronto and an educator in London discussing the latest empirical science regarding the nature of wisdom. Igor Grossmann runs the Wisdom & Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Charles Cassidy runs the Evidence-Based Wisdom project in London, UK. The podcast thrives on a diet of freewheeling conversation on wisdom and decision-making, and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioural scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast.


ABOUT THIS EPISODE


How did politics get so damn polarised?

Do we even care about accuracy at all anymore?

And if our brains are wired for partisanship, might a brain-based model show us a way out of this unholy mess?


Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

New York University’s Jay Van Bavel joins Igor and Charles to discuss political polarisation, the partisan brain, the inexorable rise of superheroes in dark times, the misperceptions of polarisation levels, and how to reach out to other tribes. Igor highlights the partisanship-transcending benefits of a Watchmen-style alien invasion, Jay proposes the judicious use of ‘off-ramps’ when engaging with loved-ones from across the political divide, and Charles learns that even the abstract purity of Mathematics is not immune from the tentacles of partisanship when guns are involved.

Welcome to Episode 18.


Click here to listen to ‘Episode 18: The End of the World is Nigh: Polarised Tribes, Passionate Words, and the Partisan Brain (with Jay Van Bavel)’ in full

Click here to visit the On Wisdom Podcast site.
Click here to get to the podcast through iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the podcast through your chosen app.

If you have any thoughts about the On Wisdom podcast, please get in touch.

You can get in contact at charles@evidencebasedwisdom.com, via the about page or find me on twitter @EBasedwisdom. You can also contact us through the On Wisdom site here or find us on twitter @onwisdompodcast.

ON WISDOM Podcast – Episode 17: The Metaphysics of Email & The Perils of Productivity (with Oliver Burkeman)

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The On Wisdom podcast features a social-cognitive scientist in Toronto and an educator in London discussing the latest empirical science regarding the nature of wisdom. Igor Grossmann runs the Wisdom & Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Charles Cassidy runs the Evidence-Based Wisdom project in London, UK. The podcast thrives on a diet of freewheeling conversation on wisdom and decision-making, and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioural scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast.


ABOUT THIS EPISODE


Our current productivity culture appears to peddle a false promise:

If we can just get better organised, we really can do everything – no tough life choices or trade-offs need to be made!



Guardian journalist and author Oliver Burkeman joins Igor and Charles to discuss the ironic effects of the pursuit of productivity, the inbox zero phenomenon, the futile denial of limitations, the Jevons paradox, Keynes’ concerns about a future society drowning in leisure time, Nietzsche’s suspicions regarding our beloved busyness, the social complexities of sending back a poorly made coffee, and the importance of living a life that is larger than politics.

Igor wonders if the ‘slow-food’ philosophy can be extended to start a ‘slow-work’ movement in social and medical sciences to help address replication concerns, Oliver explains why he sat on the London underground loudly calling out the names of approaching stations to a carriage full of strangers, and Charles reveals how a ‘free-coffees-for-nice-customers’ policy can badly backfire, particularly if your customers are British.

Welcome to Episode 17.


Click here to listen to ‘Episode 17: The Metaphysics of Email & The Perils of Productivity (with Oliver Burkeman)’ in full

Click here to visit the On Wisdom Podcast site.
Click here to get to the podcast through iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the podcast through your chosen app.

If you have any thoughts about the On Wisdom podcast, please get in touch.

You can get in contact at charles@evidencebasedwisdom.com, via the about page or find me on twitter @EBasedwisdom. You can also contact us through the On Wisdom site here or find us on twitter @onwisdompodcast.

ON WISDOM Podcast – Episode 16: Beware the Intelligence Trap! (with David Robson)

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The On Wisdom podcast features a social-cognitive scientist in Toronto and an educator in London discussing the latest empirical science regarding the nature of wisdom. Igor Grossmann runs the Wisdom & Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Charles Cassidy runs the Evidence-Based Wisdom project in London, UK. The podcast thrives on a diet of freewheeling conversation on wisdom and decision-making, and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioural scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast.


ABOUT THIS EPISODE

PODCAST - Ep16

Do highly intelligent people actually take better decisions in their daily lives than everyone else?

And if not, what’s missing from our picture of what it means to be ‘smart’?

Can you be highly intelligent, yet flunk a rationality test?

And rather than noise to be ignored, might our emotions help us make decisions that are actually more rational?


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Science Journalist and author of ‘The Intelligence Trap’ David Robson joins Igor and Charles to discuss intelligence traps, Terman’s Termites, the Monte Carlo fallacy, Damasio’s Somatic Marker hypothesis, the competitive humility of the start-up culture, and the ‘brutal pessimism’ baked in to the dark history of the Intelligence test. Igor wrangles with the challenge of convincing leaders of the merits of intellectual humility in a culture obsessed with certainty, David advocates for widespread cognitive inoculations, and Charles learns that butterflies in the stomach after a date may mean love, but also may mean gastric flu.

Welcome to Episode 16.

Click here to listen to ‘Episode 16: Beware the Intelligence Trap! (with David Robson)’ in full

Click here to visit the On Wisdom Podcast site.
Click here to get to the podcast through iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the podcast through your chosen app.

If you have any thoughts about the On Wisdom podcast, please get in touch.

You can get in contact at charles@evidencebasedwisdom.com, via the about page or find me on twitter @EBasedwisdom. You can also contact us through the On Wisdom site here or find us on twitter @onwisdompodcast.

ON WISDOM Podcast – Episode 15: Wisdom, Bullshit & Beliefs (with Gordon Pennycook)

Posted on

The On Wisdom podcast features a social-cognitive scientist in Toronto and an educator in London discussing the latest empirical science regarding the nature of wisdom. Igor Grossmann runs the Wisdom & Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Charles Cassidy runs the Evidence-Based Wisdom project in London, UK. The podcast thrives on a diet of freewheeling conversation on wisdom and decision-making, and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioural scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast.


ABOUT THIS EPISODE

PODCAST- Ep15


‘Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena?’ Does it, really?!

Why do some people fall for pseudo-profound bullshit and others don’t?

When we share fake news stories, is this because we’re motivated to think they’re real, or because we don’t bother to think at all?

And why do scientists fight tooth-and-nail over the mechanisms involved, such as “System I vs. System II”, “Fast vs. Slow” and other frameworks?


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Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science Gordon Pennycook joins Igor and Charles to discuss the critical distinction between a liar and a bullshitter, the cognitive reflection test, the random Deepak Chopra quote generator, the Ig Nobel prize, motivated reasoning, climate change beliefs, academic turf wars among dual process theorists, and how to stop yourself from compulsively retweeting fake news. Igor suggests that Gord only thought of studying bullshit after disbelief at one of Igor’s early talks, Gord reminds us that even the most enlightened social media platforms are in no hurry to help people STOP sharing news, and Charles unexpectedly finds common ground with the Chinese government. Welcome to Episode 15.

Click here to listen to ‘Episode 15: Wisdom, Bullshit & Beliefs (with Gordon Pennycook)’ in full

Click here to visit the On Wisdom Podcast site.
Click here to get to the podcast through iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the podcast through your chosen app.

If you have any thoughts about the On Wisdom podcast, please get in touch.

You can get in contact at charles@evidencebasedwisdom.com, via the about page or find me on twitter @EBasedwisdom. You can also contact us through the On Wisdom site here or find us on twitter @onwisdompodcast.

ON WISDOM Podcast – Episode 14: Wisdom & Social Norms (with Michele Gelfand)

Posted on

The On Wisdom podcast features a social-cognitive scientist in Toronto and an educator in London discussing the latest empirical science regarding the nature of wisdom. Igor Grossmann runs the Wisdom & Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Charles Cassidy runs the Evidence-Based Wisdom project in London, UK. The podcast thrives on a diet of freewheeling conversation on wisdom and decision-making, and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioural scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast.


ABOUT THIS EPISODE

PODCAST- Ep14


Is it wiser for a society to be ‘tight’ – strictly enforcing social rules, or ‘loose’ – in which social rule-breaking barely raise an eyebrow?

What do social norms have to do with a sense of threat?

And might wise leaders have worked out how to dynamically calibrate the tightness or looseness of their organisations as the situation demands?


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University of Maryland psychology professor Michele Gelfand joins Igor and Charles to discuss the role of threat in ‘tight vs loose’ societies, the goldilocks principle, ‘real vs perceived’ threat’s in Trump’s America, autocratic recidivism, rum-fuelled meetings, transgressive hand puppets, and the case for recalibrating the internet. Igor reflects on the tight-loose contradictions at the beating heart of the Disney Corporation, Michele cautions against ‘flipping-off’ drivers in the honour culture of the southern states, and Charles makes peace with his inner spirit muppet, Kermit the frog. Welcome to Episode 14.

Click here to listen to ‘Episode 14: Wisdom & Social Norms (with Michele Gelfand)’ in full

Click here to visit the On Wisdom Podcast site.
Click here to get to the podcast through iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the podcast through your chosen app.

If you have any thoughts about the On Wisdom podcast, please get in touch.

You can get in contact at charles@evidencebasedwisdom.com, via the about page or find me on twitter @EBasedwisdom. You can also contact us through the On Wisdom site here or find us on twitter @onwisdompodcast.