Igor Grossmann is currently the director of the Wisdom and Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. In this paper, he outlines the role ‘self-distancing’ can play in increasing the wisdom of the decisions we take. He believes that the wisdom of a decision is influenced by the context more than any inherent character trait of the individual. You can watch him talk about his work at the Wisdom Research Forum in May 2015 here.
Abstract Are people wiser when reflecting on other people’s problems compared with their own? If so, does self-distancing eliminate this asymmetry in wise reasoning? In three experiments (N = 693), participants displayed wiser reasoning (i.e., recognizing the limits of their knowledge and the importance of compromise and future change, considering other people’s perspectives) about another person’s problems compared with their own. Across Studies 2 and 3, instructing individuals to self-distance (rather than self-immerse) eliminated this asymmetry. Study 3 demonstrated that each of these effects was comparable for younger (20–40 years) and older (60–80 years) adults. Thus, contrary to the adage “with age comes wisdom,” our findings suggest that there are no age differences in wise reasoning about personal conflicts, and that the effects of self-distancing generalize across age cohorts. These findings highlight the role that self-distancing plays in allowing people to overcome a pervasive asymmetry that characterizes wise reasoning.