Howard Nusbaum on experience and wisdom | Our Scholars at Oxford for Jubilee Centre Conference on Character, Wisdom, and Virtue, January 5-7, 2017

Oxford in Winter. Photo by Jennifer A. Frey.

Last week, 4 of our scholars—Howard Nusbaum, David Carr, John Haldane, and Robert C. Roberts–and our 2 Principal Investigators, Jennifer Frey and Candace Vogler, all participated in a conference on Character, Wisdom, and Virtue held January 5, 6, and 7, 2017 at Oriel College, Oxford, UK, sponsored by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, UK. We are pleased to feature their abstracts and papers here on the Virtue Blog for the next few weeks, with many thanks to the Jubilee Centre.


headshot-nusbaumHoward C. Nusbaum is Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, and a steering committee member of the Neuroscience Institute. He is an internationally recognized expert in cognitive psychology, speech science, and in cognitive neuroscience. His research explores the cognitive and neural mechanisms that mediate spoken language use, as well as language learning and the role of attention in speech perception. He is also interested in how we understand the meaning of music, and how cognitive and social-emotional processes interact in decision-making and wisdom research. He is currently Division Director for the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences Division in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate for the National Science Foundation.


Below you will find his short abstract, followed by a link to the larger keynote paper discussed at the conference, “The Relationship Between Mental and Somatic Practices and Wisdom.”


ABSTRACT: “The Role of Experience in Making Wiser Decisions”


There are many notions that circulate about the development of wisdom, such as the association of wisdom with age. But aging is not just a biological change in the functioning of the body; it is an accumulation of experience. It is likely that wisdom may result from experiences themselves rather than aging. There is some belief that life challenges can increase wisdom, although the benefits of adversity are questioned by research. What kinds of experiences lead to wiser decisions? Wiser decisions may sometimes depend on knowledge and expertise that comes from experience in particular domains, such as medicine or business or law, and may depend on generalizing beyond those experiences to new situations. However, there can be wise experts and not-so-wise experts. From Aristotle’s concept of practical wisdom, wise decisions increase human flourishing, which suggests other kinds of experiences may be important. Deep knowledge of human social interaction and human nature is likely important. Furthermore, beyond knowledge, a set of dispositions and skills may be important for wisdom, such as epistemic humility, emotional self-regulation, curiosity, perseverance, and the ability to reflect and take others’ perspective. In my larger paper I discuss research that is focused on trying to understand how specific types of experiences can strengthen these foundations of wisdom.


The full paper can be found here