Week+4+optional+Sternberg++1998++theory+of+wisdom - Review...

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Review of General Psychology 1998.%!. 2, No. 4, 347-365 Copyright 1998 by the Educational Publishing Foundation 1089-2680/98/$3.00 A Balance Theory of Wisdom Robert J. Sternberg Yale University The author presents a balance theory of wisdom. First, some alternative approaches to wisdom are reviewed, including philosophical, implicit theoretical, and explicit theoreti- cal ones. Second, the concept of tacit knowledge and its role in wisdom are discussed. Third, a balance theory of wisdom is presented, according to which wisdom is defined as the application of tacit knowledge as mediated by values toward the achievement of a common good through a balance among multiple (a) intrapersonal, (b) interpersonal, and (c) extrapersonal interests in order to achieve a balance among (a) adaptation to existing environments, (b) shaping of existing environments, and (c) selection of new environments. This theory is compared to some other theories, and wisdom as a construct is compared to some other constructs. Measurement issues are also discussed. It is concluded that it might be worthwhile for American society to emphasize development of wisdom in schooling more than it has in the past. Wisdom can be defined as the "power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experi- ence, understanding, etc." (Webster'sNew World College Dictionary, 1997, p. 1533). Such a power would seem to be of vast importance in a world that at times seems bent on destroying itself. My goal in this article is to provide the beginnings of a psychological theory of wisdom and to relate it to other psychological constructs. I will first review some major attempts to understand wisdom, then describe the proposed approach to wisdom, and finally suggest how wisdom might be measured and developed. Other more comprehensive reviews can be found elsewhere (Baltes, in press; Sternberg, 1990b). Preparation of this article was supported by a government grant under the Javits Act Program (Grant No. R206R5000I) as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U. S. Department of Education. Grantees undertaking such projects are encouraged to express freely their professional judgment. This article, therefore, does not necessarily represent the positions or the policies of the U.S. government, and no official endorsement should be inferred. I thank Elena Grigorenko and Paul Baltes for comments on an earlier version of this article. Correspondence concerning this article should be ad- dressed to Robert J. Sternberg, Department of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8205. Electronic mail may be sent to robert. [email protected] Major Approaches to Understanding Wisdom A number of scholars have attempted to understand wisdom in different ways. The approaches underlying some of these attempts are summarized in Sternberg (1990a). The approaches might be classified as philosophical, implicit theoretical, and explicit theoretical approaches.
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