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Wisdom and fluid intelligence are dissociable in healthy older adults.

  • Author(s): Lindbergh, Cutter A
  • Romero-Kornblum, Heather
  • Weiner-Light, Sophia
  • Young, J Clayton
  • Fonseca, Corrina
  • You, Michelle
  • Wolf, Amy
  • Staffaroni, Adam M
  • Daly, Rebecca
  • Jeste, Dilip V
  • Kramer, Joel H
  • Chiong, Winston
  • Hillblom Aging Network
  • et al.
Abstract

Objectives

The relationship between wisdom and fluid intelligence (Gf) is poorly understood, particularly in older adults. We empirically tested the magnitude of the correlation between wisdom and Gf to help determine the extent of overlap between these two constructs.

Design

Cross-sectional study with preregistered hypotheses and well-powered analytic plan (https://osf.io/h3pjx).

Setting

Memory and Aging Center at the University of California San Francisco, located in the USA.

Participants

141 healthy older adults (mean age = 76 years; 56% female).

Measurements

Wisdom was quantified using a well-validated self-report-based scale (San Diego Wisdom Scale or SD-WISE). Gf was assessed via composite measures of processing speed (Gf-PS) and executive functioning (Gf-EF). The relationships of SD-WISE scores to Gf-PS and Gf-EF were tested in bivariate correlational analyses and multiple regression models adjusted for demographics (age, sex, and education). Exploratory analyses evaluated the relationships between SD-WISE and age, episodic memory performance, and dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortical volumes on magnetic resonance imaging.

Results

Wisdom showed a small, positive association with Gf-EF (r = 0.181 [95% CI 0.016, 0.336], p = .031), which was reduced to nonsignificance upon controlling for demographics, and no association with Gf-PS (r = 0.019 [95% CI -0.179, 0.216], p = .854). Wisdom demonstrated a small, negative correlation with age (r = -0.197 [95% CI -0.351, -0.033], p = .019), but was not significantly related to episodic memory or prefrontal volumes.

Conclusions

Our findings indicate that most of the variance in wisdom (>95%) is unaccounted for by Gf. The independence of wisdom from cognitive functions that reliably show age-associated declines suggests that it may hold unique potential to bolster decision-making, interpersonal functioning, and other everyday activities in older adults.

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