Gender and Wisdom: A Brief Overview (Aldwin, 2009)

This paper has two sections. In the first section, a new definition of wisdom is proposed, in the attempt to synthesis the different concepts of sophia and phronesis:

‘Wisdom is a practice that reflects the developmental process by which individuals increase in self-knowledge, self-integration, nonattachment, self-transcendence, and compassion, as well as a deeper understanding of life. This practice involves better self-regulation and ethical choices, resulting in greater good for oneself and others.’

In the second section, gender differences in self-reported wisdom amongst college students and older adults are analysed. Use of Ardelt’s Three-dimensional Wisdom Scale suggested the following:

(1) Men, especially older men, performed slightly more strongly than the women in the cognitive dimension

(2) Women in both groups performed slightly more strongly on the interpersonal (compassionate) dimension.

(3) There are no gender differences among the top 25% of wisdom scorers in either cohort.


This issue of Research in Human Development  grew out of a workshop organized by Dr. Judith Glück and held at the Alpen Adria University of Klagenfurt, Austria, in July 2008. It had two goals: first, to explore the issue of gender and wisdom, and second, to develop a consensus definition of wisdom . This overview briefly reviews theoretical approaches to wisdom and addresses issues in measurement and provides an introduction to empirical issues in gender and wisdom, as well as the articles included in this issue. We developed a definition of wisdom that integrated general and personal wisdom and emphasized the importance of compassion, self-regulation, moral action, and social justice, as well as the fact that wisdom is a developmental process. We also concluded that an integrated approach to wisdom was truly androgynous, although men and women may focus on different aspects of personal experience during which wisdom is developed.

Click here to read the original paper

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