Wise people may want to be emulated by those who wish to have at least an ounce of wisdom in them. But according to a new study by researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, everyone displays varying levels of wisdom depending on the situation, which includes being alone or being with friends.

The study published online on June 3 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science states that wisdom or wise reasoning is a combination of different skills that include consideration of others’ opinion, seeking compromise and intellectual humility. While many may believe that wisdom is rare, it turns out to be more common than we think. However, it changes drastically for each moment in our daily lives and for some, only specific circumstances can bring out this trait.

“This research does not dismiss that there is a personality component to wisdom, but that’s not the whole picture,” points out the study’s lead author Igor Grossmann, a professor from the Department of Psychology at Waterloo. “Situations in daily life affect our personality and ability to reason wisely.”


Wisdom varies on a situation, according to a study. Credit: Erik Albers/Wikimedia

This study may help an individual who does not exhibit wisdom at all times, to promote wisdom in his daily life and apply it in all situations. If successful, this could improve one’s life.

“There are many examples where people known for their critical acumen or expertise in ethics seem to fall prey to lack of such acumen or morals. The present findings suggest that those examples are not an anomaly,” adds the lead author. “We cannot always be at the top of our game in terms of wisdom-related tendencies, and it can be dangerous to generalize based on whether people show wisdom in their personal life or when teaching others in the classroom.”

The next step for the research team includes creating a tool that can test a person’s wisdom based on a situation. The researchers are currently thinking about conducting a study that will inform people to make more wise decisions.