ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (5): 885-893.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00885

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Wisdom in old age

CHEN Haobin1, WANG Fengyan2()   

  1. 1School of Education, Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University, Nanchang 330038, China
    2School of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China
  • Received:2020-06-09 Online:2021-05-15 Published:2021-03-30
  • Contact: WANG Fengyan


In the past 40 years, researchers have explored and constructed diverse definitions and components of wisdom. They have gradually reached a consensus that wisdom is the application of meta-cognition to reason and solve problems based on the morality. Wisdom is also closely related to individual life experience, personal growth and even physical maturity. Therefore, wisdom can be defined as a psychological quality that integrates intelligence with morality.
Among the measurements of wisdom applied in old age, the self-reported scales mainly include the three-dimensional wisdom scale (3D-WS), self-assessed wisdom scale (SAWS), and the adult self-transcendence inventory (ASTI), the performance-based methods mainly include the Berlin wisdom paradigm and the wisdom reasoning. According to the results, wisdom in old age is relatively well, but there may not be a linear relationship between the aging and the increasing of wisdom in the middle and late adulthood, the cognitive or knowledge components of wisdom reach a peak at a certain age (such as 50 to 55 years old), and after that they begin to decline, and the reflective and emotional components of wisdom will not decline, due to the growth of psychosocial development and perspective-taking ability, emotional regulation, and empathy or compassionate for others, they will even increase with age. Therefore, aging may not be a necessary or sufficient condition for wisdom.
Studies have shown that micro-factors such as the challenges in life experience, critical life events, and social changes encountered in the life course of individual are external factors that may promote the development of wisdom in the old age; psychological resources such as sense of control, personal growth, emotional regulation, openness to experience and exploratory self-reflection that contribute to the development of individual meta-cognition are internal factors that may promote the development of wisdom in the old age; meanwhile, the orientation of pro-social moral value, the subjective motivation of pursuing the growth of wisdom or the meaning in life may be the important intermediary mechanism for learning wisdom from life experience.
Wisdom can significantly and positively predict the quality of life in the old, and can help the old people obtain life goals and sense of control, which having more important impact on their well-being. Wisdom can also act as a mediating or moderating role to buffer or reduce the negative impact of negative factors on the life satisfaction and well-being of the old, thereby relieving the solitude and oppression, alleviating the feelings of loneliness, depression, and social alienation in the old age.
There are still some limitations in the psychological research on the wisdom in old age: First, whether wisdom increases, declines or remains stable in the later stages of adulthood, the conclusions still rely on the definition, conceptualization and measurement of wisdom; secondly, the researches on the antecedents of the wisdom in the old age fail to reveal the internal mechanism of the relevant resources in the development of wisdom; thirdly, the researches on the consequences of the wisdom in the old age fail to reveal the interventional roles of wisdom or different components of wisdom; finally, there are still lack of specific and operable interventions and cultivation methods for promoting wisdom. In the future, it is necessary to develop the measurement tools that integrate various sources based on self-reporting and behavioral performance measurement, and balance the content of natural wisdom and humanistic wisdom; examine the development trajectory of individual wisdom and its psychological mechanism in the life course; conduct the longitudinal researches and experimental researches to in-depth research on the causal relationship between wisdom and well-being and the positive functions of wisdom; continue to explore the interventional conditions and promoting measures for the wisdom of the old in the practice of old care services in community, thus inspire the wisdom of the old people and promote their successful aging.

Key words: wisdom, older adults, measurement, reflection, well-being

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