How wise are you? This 7-question test can reveal the truth

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — It’s safe to say most if not all people would like to think of themselves as intelligent, but are you really as wise as you think? Researchers from the University of California-San Diego believe you can find out by answering just seven questions. Scientists say they’ve developed a new, short index capable of determining wisdom with “high validity.”

Moreover, study authors add the index can measure well-being accurately as well, which studies show has a strong connection to wisdom.

The research team behind this work previously created the 28-item San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE-28), which a number of accredited universities and research projects have used to measure and evaluate wisdom in recent years. This time around, they created a shortened, seven-item version called SD-WISE-7 or Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index.

“Wisdom measures are increasingly being used to study factors that impact mental health and optimal aging. We wanted to test if a list of only seven items could provide valuable information to test wisdom,” says senior author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, in a university release.

Wisdom comes in many forms

Prior research shows that there are actually seven different dimensions of wisdom: self-reflection, pro-social behavior (empathy, compassion, altruism), emotional regulation, acceptance of diverse perspectives, decisiveness, social advising (giving rational/helpful advice), and spirituality. Importantly, each one of the seven questions on the new shortened scale corresponds with one of those dimensions.

A total of 2,093 people between ages 20 and 82 completed the seven-item survey, facilitated through the online crowdsourcing platform Amazon Mechanical Turk. For each of the seven statements, participants had to rate on a scale of 1-5 how strongly they agreed or disagreed. Examples include “I remain calm under pressure” and “I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed.”

“Shorter doesn’t mean less valid,” Prof. Jeste explains. “We selected the right type of questions to get important information that not only contributes to the advancement of science but also supports our previous data that wisdom correlates with health and longevity.”

Poor mental health negatively impacts wisdom

The results suggest the shortened version is reliable and comparable to the larger test. Furthermore, the shortened index revealed a positive link between resilience, happiness, and mental well-being, while simultaneously negatively correlating with loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

“There are evidence-based interventions to increase levels of specific components of wisdom, which would help reduce loneliness and promote overall well-being,” Prof. Jeste adds. “Like the COVID-19 vaccine protects us from the novel coronavirus, wisdom can aid in protecting us from loneliness. Thus, we can potentially help end a behavioral pandemic of loneliness, suicides and opioid abuse that has been going on for the last 20 years.”

Moving forward, the next step is to test the shortened index out on a larger and more diverse population sample.

“We need wisdom for surviving and thriving in life. Now, we have a list of questions that take less than a couple of minutes to answer that can be put into clinical practice to try to help individuals,” Prof. Jeste concludes.

The study appears in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

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