The wisdom of experience: Autobiographical narratives across adulthood (Gluck et al., 2005)

Abstract: This research uses an autobiographical approach to examine the relation of age to several aspects of wisdom. In Study 1 (N . 86), adolescents’, young adults’, and older adults’ wisdom narratives were content-coded for the types of life situations mentioned and the forms that wisdom took. Types of life situations reported (e.g., life decisions) were the same across age groups. Three different forms of wisdom emerged (empathy and support; self-determination and assertion; balance and flexibility) and their frequency differed with age. In Study 2, middle-aged and older adults’ (N . 51) autobiographical wisdom narratives were also analysed for type of situation and form of wisdom, but with the addition of two comparison life events: being foolish and having a very positive experience. Most findings replicated Study 1. Unlike Study 1, however, regardless of age, Study 2 participants largely showed the wisdom form, empathy and support. Results are discussed in terms of variations in individuals’ implicit theories of wisdom as applied to their own lives.

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