“She looks back without bitterness”: Wisdom as a developmental opposite of embitterment?

  • Judith Glück


Wisdom is a highly complex construct that integrates several different facets. Tus, there may be many different ways of being “unwise,” including foolishness (Sternberg 2005), rigidity, self-centeredness, and, perhaps, embitterment. The other way round, there are many different ways of not being bitter, and wisdom, which we seldom observe anyway, is probably among the rarer ones. Tus, it might not be particularly obvious that wisdom research could inform embit-terment research in a useful way. However, consideration of the ontogeny of the two constructs suggests that it might actually be useful for both fields to look at bitterness and wisdom as opposite outcomes of similar life experiences. In some of our wisdom studies, participants were asked to report on experiences with wise individuals. Interestingly, some of these people also talked about bitterness when they talked about wisdom:


Posttraumatic Growth Emotion Regulation Skill Wise Person Wise Individual Similar Life Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aldwin CM (1999) Stress, coping, and development. An integrative approach. Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Aldwin CM, Levenson MR (2001) Stress, coping, and health at midlife: A developmental perspective. In: ME Lachman (ed) Handbook of midlife development. Wiley, Hoboken, pp 188–214Google Scholar
  3. Aldwin CM, Levenson MR (2004) Posttraumatic growth: A developmental perspective. Psychol Inq 15:19–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ardelt M (1997) Wisdom and life satisfaction in old age. J Gerontol: Psychol Sci 52B: P15–P27Google Scholar
  5. Ardelt M (2000) Intellectual versus wisdom-related knowledge: The case for a different kind of learning in the later years of life. Edu Gerontol 26:771–789CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ardelt M (2003) Development and empirical assessment of a three-dimensional wisdom scale. Res on Aging 25:275–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ardelt M (2004) Wisdom as expert knowledge system: A critical review of a contemporary operationalization of an ancient concept. Hum Dev 47:257–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ardelt M (2005a) Foreword. In: Sternberg RJ, Jordan J (eds) A handbook of wisdom: Psychological Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp xi–xviiCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ardelt M (2005b) How wise people cope with crises and obstacles in life. ReVision, 28:7–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baltes PB, Kunzmann U (2004) The two faces of wisdom: Wisdom as a general theory of knowledge and judgment about excellence in mind and virtue vs. wisdom as everyday realization in people and products. Hum Dev 47:290–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Baltes PB, Smith J (1990) Toward a psychology of wisdom and its ontogenesis. In: Sternberg RJ (ed) Wisdom: Its nature, origins, and development. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 87–120Google Scholar
  12. Baltes PB, Staudinger UM (2000) Wisdom: A metaheuristic (pragmatic) to orchestrate mind and virtue towards excellence. Am Psychol 55:122–136PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Baltes PB, Staudinger UM, Maercker A, Smith J (1995) People nominated as wise: A comparative study of wisdom-related knowledge. Psychol Aging 10:155–166PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bluck S, Glück J (2005) From the inside out: People’s implicit theories of wisdom. In: Sternberg RJ, Jordan J (eds) A handbook of wisdom: Psychological perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 84–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brugman G (2006) Wisdom and aging. In: Birren JE, Schaie KW, Abeles RP (eds) Handbook of the psychology of aging, 6th edn. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 445–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clayton VP, Birren JE (1980) The development of wisdom across the lifespan: A reexamination of an ancient topic. In: Baltes PB, Brim OG (eds) Life-span development and behavior, vol 3. San Diego, Academic Press, pp 103–135Google Scholar
  17. Costa PT Jr, McCrae RR (1992) Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: The NEO personality inventory. Psychol Assess 4:5–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Denney N, Dew J, Kroupa S (1995) Perceptions of wisdom: What is wisdom and who has it? J Adult Dev 2:37–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Erikson EH (1959) Identity and the life cycle. Psychol Issues 1:1–173Google Scholar
  20. Glück J, Bischof B, Siebenhüner L (2010) “Knows what is good and bad,” “Can teach you things,” “Does lots of crosswords:” Children’s knowledge about wisdom. Eur J Dev Psychol (in press)Google Scholar
  21. Glück J, Bluck S (2009) Individual differences in conceptions of wisdom: What it is and where it comes from. (Manuscript submitted for publication)Google Scholar
  22. Glück J, Bluck S, Baron J, McAdams D (2005) The wisdom of experience: Autobiographical narratives across adulthood. Int J Behav Dev 29:197–208Google Scholar
  23. Glück J, Strasser I, Bluck S (2009) Gender differences in implicit theories of wisdom. Res Hum Dev 6(Special Issue: Gender and Wisdom):27–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heckhausen J, Dixon R, Baltes P (1989) Gains and losses in development throughout adulthood as perceived by different adult age groups. Dev Psychol 25:109–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hershey DA, Farrell AH (1997) Perceptions of wisdom associated with selected occupations and personality characteristics. Curr Psychol: Dev, Learn, Pers, Soc 16:115–130Google Scholar
  26. Holliday SG, Chandler MJ (1986) Wisdom: Explorations in adult competence. Karger, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Janoff-Bulman R (1989) Assumptive world and the stress of traumatic events: Applications of the schema construct. Soc Cogn 7:113–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Janoff-Bulman R (1992) Shattered assumptions: Towards a new psychology of trauma. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Jason LA, Reichler A, King C, Madsen D, Camacho J, Marchese W (2001) The measurement of wisdom: A preliminary effort. J Community Psychol, 29:585–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Joseph S, Linley PA (2005) Positive adjustment to threatening events: An organismic valuing theory of growth through adversity. Rev Gen Psychol 9:262–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Joseph S, Linley PA (2006) Growth following adversity: Teoretical perspectives and implications for clinical practice. Clin Psychol Rev 26:1041–1053PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. King LA, Hicks JA (2007) Whatever happened to ‘What might have been’? Regrets, happiness, and maturity. Am Psychol 62:625–636PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kinnier RT, Tribbensee NE, Rose CA, Vaughan SM (2001) In the final analysis: More wisdom from people who have faced death. J Couns Dev 79:171–177Google Scholar
  34. Kramer DA (2000) Wisdom as a classical source of human strength: Conceptualization and empirical inquiry. J Soc Clin Psychol 19:83–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kunzmann U (2004) Approaches to a good life: The emotional-motivational side to wisdom. In: Linley PA, Joseph S (eds) Positive psychology in practice. Wiley, Hoboken, pp 504–517Google Scholar
  36. Kunzmann U, Baltes PB (2005) The psychology of wisdom: Teoretical and empirical challenges. In: Sternberg RJ, Jordan J (eds) A handbook of wisdom: Psychological Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 110–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Labouvie-Vief G (2003) Dynamic Integration: Affect, cognition, and the self in adulthood. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 12:201–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Linden M, Baumann K, Rotter M, Schippan B (2008) Diagnostic criteria and the standardized diagnostic interview for posttraumatic embitterment disorder (PTED). Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract 12:93–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Linley PA (2003) Positive adaptation to trauma: Wisdom as both process and outcome. J Traumatic Stress 16:601–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maercker A, Zoellner T (2004) The Janus face of self-perceived growth: Toward a two-component model of posttraumatic growth. Psychol Inqu 15:41–48Google Scholar
  41. McKee P, Barber C (1999) On defining wisdom. Int J Hum Dev 49:149–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Montgomery A, Barber C, McKee P (2002). A phenomenological study of wisdom in later life. Int J Aging Hum Dev 52:139–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nolen-Hoeksema S, Larson J (1999) Coping with loss. Erlbaum, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  44. Park CL (2004) The notion of growth following stressful life experiences: Problems and prospects. Psychol Inqu 15:69–76Google Scholar
  45. Park CL, Cohen LH, Murch R (1996) Assessment and prediction of stress-related growth. Journal of Personality 64:71–105PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Salthouse TA (1984) Effects of age and skill in typing. J Exp Psychol: Gen 13:345–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Staudinger UM, Glück J (2010) Wisdom and Intelligence. In: Sternberg RJ, Kaufman SB (eds) Cambridge handbook of intelligence (in press)Google Scholar
  48. Staudinger UM, Lopez D, Baltes PB (1997) The psychometric location of wisdom-related performance: Intelligence, personality, and more? Pers Soc Psychol Bull 23:1200–1214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sternberg RJ (1985) Implicit theories of intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. J Pers Soc Psychol 49:607–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sternberg RJ (1998) A balance theory of wisdom. Rev Gen Psychol 2:347–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sternberg RJ (2005) Foolishness. In: Sternberg RJ, Jordan J (eds) A handbook of wisdom: Psychological perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 331–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Takahashi M, Bordia P (2000) The concept of wisdom: A cross-cultural comparison. Int J Psychol 35:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Takahashi M, Overton WF (2005) Cultural foundations of wisdom: An integrated developmental approach. In: Sternberg RJ, Jordan J (eds) A handbook of wisdom: Psychological perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 32–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tedeschi RG, Calhoun LG (1995) Trauma & transformation: Growing in the afermath of suffering. Sage, Tousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  55. Tedeschi RG, Calhoun LG (2004) Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychol Inqu 15:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tedeschi RG, Park CL, Calhoun LG (1998) Posttraumatic growth: Positive changes in the afer-math of crisis. Erlbaum, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  57. Webster JD (2003) An exploratory analysis of a self-assessed wisdom scale. J Adult Dev 10:13–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Webster JD (2007) Measuring the character strength of wisdom. Int J Aging Hum Dev 65:163–183PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wortman CB (2004) Posttraumatic growth: Progress and problems. Psychol Inqu 15:81–90Google Scholar
  60. Zoellner T, Maercker A (2006) Posttraumatic growth in clinical psychology — A critical review and introduction of a two component model. Clin Psychol Rev 26:626–653PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Glück
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAlpen-Adria University KlagenfurtKlagenfurtAustria

Personalised recommendations