Center for Practical Wisdom Research Forum: Masami Takahashi 2017 (video)

Wise but unhappy? The complicated relationship between wisdom and happiness

The following is a recorded presentation of Masami Takahashi, Professor in the Department of Psychology from Northeastern Illinois University at the University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom Research Forum in August 2017.

Click here to watch this video and previous wisdom presentations on the Uchicago Wisdom Research YouTube channel!

Presentation abstract: Wisdom is generally characterized as a psychological jewel that is accrued over one’s lifespan that in turn yields happiness. While the results of empirical studies often support this association between wisdom and happiness in the U.S., the data in Japan, where over a quarter of the population is over 65 years old, suggest that happiness declines with age. In this presentation, I will first provide a brief overview of a developmental relational theory of wisdom, followed by a discussion of happiness, particularly focusing on the distinction between Hedonism (self- serving sensual pleasure) and Eudaimonia (a feeling of gratification associated with par excellence for greater good). Although wisdom and happiness were once considered closely intertwined, I will argue that significant shifts in demography, economics, and cultural milieu may change this relationship. As a result, people tend to be less eudaimonic and less concerned about others, but more hedonistic and more focused on self-preservation. I will describe a general pattern found in contemporary Japan as an example where the traditional image of a happy older adulthood seems less likely.

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Degrane

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