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With Age Comes Wisdom: Study
Date:4/5/2010

Seniors better able to see other points of view and seek compromise to smooth social conflicts

MONDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- There just might be plenty of truth to the old adage, "With age comes wisdom."

A new study finds that seniors are better equipped than younger folks to solve social conflicts. Seniors could more easily see multiple points of view, were more interested in searching for compromise and were more willing to acknowledge that there might be things about a difficult situation that they didn't know.

Taken together, those attributes make people 60 and older generally wiser than younger people, the researchers said.

"People have held the opinion forever that older people are wiser," said senior study author Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. "Now we have some evidence it's true. Independent of social class, older people are wiser, by our definition, for group conflicts and individual conflicts. And this was true independent of their level of intelligence."

The study findings were published in the April 5-9 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For the study, the researchers divided 247 participants into three age groups: 25 to 40; 41 to 59; and 60 and up. Then the participants were presented with three stories about social conflicts. One story, for example, described immigration tensions between the Kyrgyzs and the Tajiks in Tajikistan in central Asia. The newer immigrants, the Kyrgyzs, wanted to preserve their customs, while the native Tajiks wanted Kyrgyzs to assimilate.

The participants were asked to reflect on the scenarios. Their answers were then rated for their wisdom, or "the ability to use intelligence for the social good," Nisbett said. Specifically, participants were rated on well-accepted characteristics of wisdom: being able to see the point of view of each sid
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