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Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Wisdom in Virtue: Pursuit of Virtue Predicts Wise Reasoning About Personal Conflicts

Alex C. Huynh, Harrison Oakes, Garrett R. Shay, & Ian McGregor
Psychological Science
Article first published online: October 3, 2017


Most people can reason relatively wisely about others’ social conflicts, but often struggle to do so about their own (i.e., Solomon’s paradox). We suggest that true wisdom should involve the ability to reason wisely about both others’ and one’s own social conflicts, and we investigated the pursuit of virtue as a construct that predicts this broader capacity for wisdom. Results across two studies support prior findings regarding Solomon’s paradox: Participants (N = 623) more strongly endorsed wise-reasoning strategies (e.g., intellectual humility, adopting an outsider’s perspective) for resolving other people’s social conflicts than for resolving their own. The pursuit of virtue (e.g., pursuing personal ideals and contributing to other people) moderated this effect of conflict type. In both studies, greater endorsement of the pursuit of virtue was associated with greater endorsement of wise-reasoning strategies for one’s own personal conflicts; as a result, participants who highly endorsed the pursuit of virtue endorsed wise-reasoning strategies at similar levels for resolving their own social conflicts and resolving other people’s social conflicts. Implications of these results and underlying mechanisms are explored and discussed.

Here is an excerpt:

We propose that the litmus test for wise character is whether one can reason wisely about one’s own social conflicts. As did the biblical King Solomon, people tend to reason more wisely about others’ social conflicts than their own (i.e., Solomon’s paradox; Grossmann & Kross, 2014, see also Mickler & Staudinger, 2008, for a discussion of personal vs. general wisdom). Personal conflicts impede wise reasoning because people are more likely to immerse themselves in their own perspective and emotions, relegating other perspectives out of awareness, and increasing certainty regarding preferred perspectives (Kross & Grossmann, 2012; McGregor, Zanna, Holmes, & Spencer, 2001). In contrast, reasoning about other people’s conflicts facilitates wise reasoning through the adoption of different viewpoints and the avoidance of sociocognitive biases (e.g., poor recognition of one’s own shortcomings—e.g., Pronin, Olivola, & Kennedy, 2008). In the present research, we investigated whether virtuous motives facilitate wisdom about one’s own conflicts, enabling one to pass the litmus test for wise character.

The article is here.