Toronto: Do we really
get wiser with age or does culture shape wisdom? Having wisdom
implies that one is also good at resolving conflict. But conflict
is not handled the same way across cultures.
Americans are known to emphasise individuality and solve conflict
in a direct manner. Conversely, the Japanese place a greater
emphasis on social cohesion, and tend to settle conflict
indirectly, relying on mediation through another person.
Psychological scientist Igor Grossmann of the University of
Waterloo, Canada and his colleagues investigated how the
resolution of conflict and, by extension, wisdom, differs between
Japanese and American cultures, the journal "Psychological
Japanese and American participants, aged between 25 to 75 years,
were asked to read newspaper articles that described a conflict
between two groups and respond to several questions, including
"What do you think will happen after that?" and "Why do you think
it will happen this way?"
Next, they read stories about conflict between individuals -
including siblings, friends, and spouses - and answered the same
questions. As Grossmann and colleagues predicted, young and
middle-aged Japanese participants showed higher wisdom scores than
same-aged Americans for conflicts between groups, according to a
For conflicts between people, older Japanese still scored higher
than older Americans, though this cultural difference was much
smaller than the difference observed between the younger adults.
Interestingly, while older age was associated with higher wisdom
scores for the American participants, there was no such
relationship for the Japanese participants.
These findings underscore the point that culture continues to be
important for human development, even into old age.
While wisdom may come with winter for Americans, the same may not
be true for other cultures.