Monday, 22 January 2018

Those folk you think are thick. They're probably wiser than you.

It seems - albeit a little tentatively - that people from 'lower social classes' are, in some contexts, wider than us clever folk with higher degrees:
The answer is that raw intelligence doesn’t reduce conflict, he asserts. Wisdom does. Such wisdom—in effect, the ability to take the perspectives of others into account and aim for compromise—comes much more naturally to those who grow up poor or working class, according to a new study by Grossman and colleagues.
Now, while I appreciate that a visit to Keighley on a Saturday night might present a different view on the working class and conflict, the findings here are really rather interesting:
We propose that class is inversely related to a propensity for using wise reasoning (recognizing limits of their knowledge, consider world in flux and change, acknowledges and integrate different perspectives) in interpersonal situations, contrary to established class advantage in abstract cognition. Two studies—an online survey from regions differing in economic affluence (n = 2 145) and a representative in-lab study with stratified sampling of adults from working and middle-class backgrounds (n = 299)—tested this proposition, indicating that higher social class consistently related to lower levels of wise reasoning across different levels of analysis, including regional and individual differences, and subjective construal of specific situations.
I'm struck by the bounds of this wisdom measure - knowing limits to knowledge, acknowledging change and different perspectives - because they present a very different approach to how people might assess a situation or a decision from the preferred and purely reason-based approach of the intellectual. Us clever folk tend to presume that, because we know a lot about one thing and have letters after our names, we are better able to see to the right choice - we fail to do what the wise person does and recognise that our knowledge is limited. Moreover, clever folk nearly always (witness the typical approach to economic modelling) start from an assumption of a stable status quo - wise folk know change is constant. And, because we're clever, us folk assume that we are right and that your opinion (unless it starts from recognising I am right) is of no consequence or worse still, just plain wrong - wisdom (and a peek at history) should tell us that other perspectives are helpful not a challenge to our intellectual prowess.

So next time some intellectual giant puts you down as thick, take a minute to respond that you may not have that book learning but you've a perspective, some limited knowledge and recognise that things seldom stay unchanged. Oh, and that this makes you wise - so listen up, clever folk, hark to the wisdom of ordinary folk.


1 comment:

Hector Drummond, Vile Novelist said...

>while I appreciate that a visit to Keighley on a Saturday night might present a different view on the working class and conflict

The same thing goes on in academia, only in a disguised way. They're called seminars.