Center for Practical Wisdom Research Forum: Nic M. Weststrate 2017

'It was the best worst day of my life: Life experiences that foster wisdom'

The following is a recorded presentation by Nic M. Weststrate from the Wisdom & Identity Lab, University of Toronto at the University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom Research Forum in August 2017.

Click here to watch the video! You can view more Wisdom Research Forum videos on the University of Chicago Wisdom Research YouTube Channel.

Presentation abstract: When asked about how wisdom develops, the resounding response from laypersons and experts has been "life experience." Although many people accumulate diverse life experiences over time, few of them go on to become wise, because "life experience" does not necessarily translate to mean "experienced at life." The goal of my emerging research program is to scrutinize the life experience hypothesis. In this talk I review findings from three multi- method studies that have investigated the nature and number of life experiences associated with wisdom development, as well as psychological processes that support growth in wisdom through life experience. These studies have shown that wisdom development was subjectively associated with fundamental, culturally non- normative, and emotionally negative life events (e.g., divorce, serious illness or injury, job loss) by midlife adults. Using a life-event checklist, wiser people reported moderate levels of adversity and high levels of positive life events. Across studies, wisdom was positively associated with deep and exploratory forms of self-reflection on autobiographical experience. Moreover, self-reflection moderated the association between wisdom and life experience: High-quality self-reflection combined with adversity predicted the highest levels of wisdom. Results point to the interaction of persons and environments in the genesis of wisdom.



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