The Science of Wisdom

January 31, 2012

How can research help us understand the types of behavior associated with wisdom? Associate Professor of Psychology Louise Freeman takes on that question from the scientific perspective in her essay on wisdom, the third in a series of faculty papers about the 2011–12 college theme. The writings are intended to deepen understanding of the theme throughout the campus community and serve as a precursor for this semester’s call for students to produce their own essays or creative works (painting, musical composition, monologue, etc.) inspired by the theme. The contributing faculty members, whose work is published on Mary Baldwin News, represent each of the four School of Excellence.

Louise Freeman in the lab

Like other abstract concepts … wisdom is not the result of one brain structure or even multiple modules, but emerges from the entire brain, in dynamic interaction with the body and the environment. Nonetheless, with improved techniques for measuring activity in the behaving human brain, we are learning more about the neural structures that are necessary for behaviors associated with wisdom. Such research has the potential for helping us learn more about how wisdom develops, what factors promote it and how wisdom impairments caused by disease or injury could be corrected.

Read the rest of Freeman’s essay on the college theme webpage.