Everyday wisdom is not a stable personality trait

Igor Grossman and Ethan Kross (2014) showed that people, by looking at their own problems from a distance (from a third person perspective), can come to wiser judgments (read more about their studies). A new study by Grossman et al. (2016) focuses on the question how stable or dynamic wisdom is in daily life. The researchers did a daily diary study into wise reasoning which lasted 9 months with 152 participants and which asked people to reflect on problems which that had had the previous day. They measured 3 facets of wisdom: intellectual humility, self-transcendence (being able to view your situation from a distance), and consideration of others’ perspectives/compromise.


The study showed that there are substantial differences in wise reasoning both between individuals and within individuals. The latter means that people act more wisely in some situations that in others. This implies that factors within the person (personality traits) explain wise reasoning to a much lesser extent than characteristics of situations do. It this appears that wisdom is not a stable personality trait. Another finding was that when people acted wisely they reported more positive and fewer negative emotions. In additions to this they reported more complex (rich) emotions, better emotion regulation, and more forgiveness in these situations.


Wisdom does not appear to be a stable personality trait. How wise we act fluctuates for each of us depending on the situation we find ourselves in. Wise reasoning is a good thing: when we reason wisely there are important benefits for ourselves. I argue that we may grow our wisdom by reflecting on situations in which we have already reasoned wisely. This can help us to become more aware of its benefits and of the ways in which we have managed to do it.