How to Measure Wisdom


As you might guess, psychological scientists disagree on the definition of wisdom. Here's one definition with a list of features that captures some scientific thinking (from evidenced-based).

Psychologists are finding that societies do share an agreed understanding and conception of wisdom. Wisdom is a construct composed of the following traits:

  • Deep self-knowledge
  • Social intelligence and life skills
  • Broad compassion
  • Emotional management
  • Multi-model perspective-taking
  • Uncertainty navigation
Several scales have been developed to measure various characteristics. As with many psychological survey items, measures of wisdom rely on self-report. In this post, I will present one scale and provide links to information about additional wisdom scales.

3 D Wisdom Scale (3DWS)

Monika Ardelt is a professor of sociology at the University of Florida. She developed the Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (2003). Her model of wisdom included the following three dimensions:

Reflective: considers various perspectives when examining phenomena, which reduces excessive subjectivity and projection.

Cognitive: an ability to appraise reality and see how reality relates to intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of life.

Affective: capacity to consider others with sympathy and compassion

Early Scale items

The 3DWS items were reduced from 132 to 39 items in research conducted in North and Central Florida. The number of items for the scales are: Reflective 12, Cognitive 14, and Affective 13.

Take the Wisdom Test Online:  Link to the 39-item scale online.

3DWS12: A Short Version

Monica Ardelt and her colleagues (Thomas, Bangen, Ardelt, & Jeste, 2017) created a short version with 12 items. The larger sample has 1,546 adults in the age range of 21 to 100 (M = 66). The authors report adequate consistency values (Coefficient Alpha).

Full Scale = .86 and subscales .69

Short 12-item version = .73 and subscales .63

Item sample for Short Scale (all rated as 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree).

A problem has little attraction for me if I don’t think it has a solution.

When I look back on what has happened to me, I can’t help feeling resentful.

I’m easily irritated by people who argue with me.

See the Thomas et al., 2017 article for details.

There are other measures of wisdom, which you can find at evidence-based wisdom.

Resource Link:  A – Z Test Index


Ardelt, M. (2003). Empirical assessment of a three-dimensional wisdom scale. Research on Aging, 25(3), 275-324.

Thomas, M. L., Bangen, K. J., Ardelt, M., & Jeste, D. V. (2017). Development of a 12-item abbreviated Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (3D-WS-12): Item selection and psychometric properties. Assessment, 24, 71-82.

Learn more assessment and statistical concepts in

Applied Statistics: Concepts for Counselors

Learn how to add wisdom or other items to surveys

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