Wiser | Dilip Jeste

Summary of: Wiser: The Scientific Roots of Wisdom, Compassion, and What Makes Us Good
By: Dilip Jeste

Introduction

Unlock the secrets behind wisdom and age as we delve into the compelling world of neuroscience in ‘Wiser: The Scientific Roots of Wisdom, Compassion, and What Makes Us Good’ by Dilip Jeste. Exploring the fascinating link between our aging brains and the development of wisdom, this summary will guide you through the roles of key brain regions like the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in our emotional experiences and decision-making processes. Discover the key facets of wisdom, such as emotional balance, concern for others, and rational decision-making. Along the way, learn how to enhance your own wisdom through effective strategies like introspection and empathy-building activities.

Age and Wisdom

Neuroscience research suggests that aging and wisdom are closely linked, as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex undergo significant changes with age that contribute to emotional harmony, optimism, and wisdom. The amygdala becomes less responsive to negative stimuli, while remaining as sensitive to positive stimuli, leading to fewer emotional lows and just as many highs. Meanwhile, much of the brain’s activity shifts to the PFC, where compassionate wisdom resides. This sheds light on the common belief of the elderly being wise and knowledgeable.

Concern for others – A Key Component of Wisdom

Intelligence and wisdom are different things though both intelligent and wise people can be insightful and knowledgeable. The value of wise people lies in their compassion, altruism, and willingness to cooperate besides concern for others, according to the Euripides. Mirror neurons are a mental mechanism to empathize and understand others. Research suggests that women empathize more easily than men do, possibly attributed to greater mirror neuron activity in their brains. However, men can increase compassion and pro-social feelings over time, and reading is one way to build empathy. Habitual readers can understand others better, as they find it easier to empathize with others and imagine the world from their perspective.

Emotional Stability and Wisdom

Maintaining emotional stability is a significant characteristic of wisdom, which refers to finding a balance between unemotional reason and pure, unreasoning emotion, known as homeostasis. Emotional homeostasis helps to keep our reactions in a normal, healthy range and prevents us from becoming too easily overwhelmed or unfeeling. Interestingly, emotional stability is linked to aging and impulsive actions. Young individuals often act impulsively due to an imbalance between the limbic and PFC brain systems, with the limbic system favoring risky and adventurous behaviors. The PFC is responsible for applying reason to the rash risk-taking of the limbic system, and it catches up in our early-to-mid-twenties, making us wiser.

Decisions and Phronesis

The article defines phronesis, practical wisdom that requires good judgment and decision-making skills. The ability to make sensible, real-world decisions is the essence of wisdom. While our brains are constantly anticipating the future, what distinguishes wise people from others is that they are not paralyzed by the world’s unpredictability. This article suggests that we reason better when we advise our friends, but making decisions for ourselves can be difficult because of emotional attachment.

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