9.12: Intelligence and Wisdom
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When looking at scores on traditional intelligence tests, tasks measuring verbal skills show minimal or no age-related declines, while scores on performance tests, which measure solving problems quickly, decline with age (Botwinick, 1984). This profile mirrors crystalized and fluid intelligence. As you recall from last chapter, crystallized intelligence encompasses abilities that draw upon experience and knowledge. Measures of crystallized intelligence include vocabulary tests, solving number problems, and understanding texts. Fluid intelligence refers to information processing abilities, such as logical reasoning, remembering lists, spatial ability, and reaction time. Baltes (1993) introduced two additional types of intelligence to reflect cognitive changes in aging. Pragmatics of intelligence are cultural exposure to facts and procedures that are maintained as one ages and are similar to crystalized intelligence. Mechanics of intelligence are dependent on brain functioning and decline with age, similar to fluid intelligence. Baltes indicated that pragmatics of intelligence show little decline and typically increase with age. Additionally, pragmatics of intelligence may compensate for the declines that occur with mechanics of intelligence. In summary, global cognitive declines are not typical as one ages, and individuals compensate for some cognitive declines, especially processing speed.
Wisdom is the ability to use the accumulated knowledge about practical matters that allows for sound judgment and decision making. A wise person is insightful and has knowledge that can be used to overcome obstacles in living. Does aging bring wisdom? While living longer brings experience, it does not always bring wisdom. Paul Baltes and his colleagues (Baltes & Kunzmann, 2004; Baltes & Staudinger, 2000) suggest that wisdom is rare. In addition, the emergence of wisdom can be seen in late adolescence and young adulthood, with there being few gains in wisdom over the course of adulthood (Staudinger & Gluck, 2011). This would suggest that factors other than age are stronger determinants of wisdom. Occupations and experiences that emphasize others rather than self, along with personality characteristics, such as openness to experience and generativity, are more likely to provide the building blocks of wisdom (Baltes & Kunzmann, 2004). Age combined with a certain types of experience and/or personality brings wisdom.