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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Training for Wisdom: The Distanced-Self-Reflection Diary Method

Grossmann, I., et al.  (2019, May 8). 
Psychological Science. 2021;32(3):381-394. 


Two pre-registered longitudinal experiments (Study 1: Canadians/Study 2: Americans and Canadians; N=555) tested the utility of illeism—a practice of referring to oneself in the third person—during diary-reflection for the trainability of wisdom-related characteristics in everyday life: emotional complexity (Study 1) and wise reasoning (intellectual humility, open-mindedness about how situations could unfold, consideration of and attempts to integrate diverse viewpoints; Studies 1-2). In a month-long experiment, instruction to engage in third- (vs. first-) person diary-reflections on most significant daily experiences resulted in growth in wise reasoning and emotional complexity assessed in laboratory sessions after vs. before the intervention. Additionally, third- (vs. first-) person participants showed alignment between forecasted and month-later experienced feelings toward close others in challenging situations. Study 2 replicated the third-person self-reflections effect on wise reasoning (vs. first-person- and no-pronoun-controls) in a week-long intervention. The present research demonstrates a path to evidence-based training of wisdom-related processes.

General Discussion

Two interventions demonstrated the effectiveness of distanced self-reflection for promoting wiser reasoning about interpersonal challenges, relative to control conditions. The effect of using distanced self-reflection on wise reasoning was in part statistically accounted for by a corresponding broadening of people’s habitually narrow self-focus into a more expansive sense of self (Aron & Aron, 1997). Distanced self-reflection effects were particularly pronounced for intellectual humility and social-cognitive aspects of wise reasoning (i.e., acknowledgement of others’ perspectives, search for conflict resolution). This project provides the first evidence that wisdom-related cognitive processes can be fostered in daily life. The results suggest that distanced self-reflections in daily diaries may cultivate wiser reasoning about challenging social interactions by promoting spontaneous self-distancing (Ayduk & Kross, 2010).