How to measure wisdom: content, reliability, and validity of five measures (Gluck et al., 2013)

This paper compares the effectiveness of four leading wisdom scales. It also discusses a number of problems in the measurement of wisdom:

(1) self-report scales are distorted by the ‘social desirability’ effect. People want to make themselves look good.

(2) self-report scales are distorted by self-illusions. People are not very good at judging their own competencies.

(2) wise people are often more aware of their flaws than unwise people, thus scoring lower on a self-report wisdom scale.

(3) none of the measurements support the idea that wisdom increases with age. However, most researchers believe we do get wiser as we get older

The study also supports the idea that self-transcendence is central to wisdom. This is an idea that has been outside the mainstream of wisdom research but is now becoming more popular.

Abstract: Wisdom is a field of growing interest both inside and outside academic psychology, and researchers are increasingly interested in using measures of wisdom in their work. However, wisdom is a highly complex construct, and its various operationalizations are based on quite different definitions. Which measure a researcher chooses for a particular research project may have a strong influence on the results. This study compares four well-established measures of wisdom—the Self-Assessed Wisdom Scale (Webster, 2003, 2007), the Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (Ardelt, 2003), the Adult Self-Transcendence Inventory (Levenson et al., 2005), and the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm (Baltes and Smith, 1990; Baltes and Staudinger, 2000)—with respect to content, reliability, factorial structure, and construct validity (relationships to wisdom nomination, interview-based wisdom ratings, and correlates of wisdom). The sample consisted of 47 wisdom nominees and 123 control participants. While none of the measures performed “better” than the others by absolute standards, recommendations are given for researchers to select the most suitable measure for their substantive interests. In addition, a “Brief Wisdom Screening Scale” is introduced that contains those 20 items from the three self-report scales that were most highly correlated with the common factor across the scales.

Click here to read the original paper


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