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Defining intelligence, creativity, and wisdom implicitly

Solomon is widely known for his wisdom, and Picasso is revered for his creativity. However, psychologists are still uncertain about the psychological attributes that made Solomon wise or Picasso creative. Theories of psychological constructs such as creativity, wisdom, and intelligence can be classified into explicit and implicit theories. Explicit theories are based on data collected from people performing tasks presumed to measure psychological functioning. Such theories have dominated the literature on intelligence and creativity, with several prominent theories such as Spearman's two-factor theory, Guilford's structure-of-intellect model, Getzels's componential theory, Barren's clinical theory, and Amabile's social-psychological theory.

The amount of explicit psychological theorizing regarding intelligence, creativity, and wisdom has been decreasing for many years, and there are still serious differences among psychologists in their views on the nature of intelligence. The psychometric intelligence test has received widespread acceptance as an operational definition of intelligence.

When psychologists are at a loss for definitions of constructs on which to base explicit theories, implicit theories can be useful for providing a conceptual framework for the development of explicit theories. Intelligence, creativity, and wisdom have all been subject to at least some study through implicit theories. One way to discover such theories is to ask people what they are.

The results of studies on implicit theories have shown that highly creative individuals are inventive, determined, independent, individualistic, enthusiastic, industrious, artistic, progressive, and appreciative. In contrast, less creative individuals are responsible, sincere, reliable, dependable, clear-thinking, tolerant, understanding, peaceable, good-natured, moderate, steady, practical, logical. Little systematic psychological work has been done on wisdom, with the notable exception of the work of Clayton (1982; Clayton & Birren, 1980), who scaled words potentially related to wisdom for three samples of adults differing in age and found two consistent dimensions of wisdom.

Four experiments were conducted to understand people's implicit theories of intelligence, creativity, and wisdom in different subpopulations, how people use these implicit theories in making judgments of themselves and others, and how people view these three constructs as interrelated. The experiments involved administering a questionnaire to 25 professors in the fields of art, business, philosophy, and physics, and 17 laypersons. The results indicate that intelligence and wisdom are perceived as more similar to each other than either is perceived as similar to creativity. These results are inconsistent with views that creativity is an aspect of intelligence.

Scalings for intelligence, creativity, and wisdom were also conducted. For intelligence, practical problem-solving ability was the first dimension, intellectual balance and integration was the second, and contextual intelligence and fluid thought were the third. For creativity, the first dimension was nonentrenchment and integration, the second was aesthetic taste and imagination, and the third was perspicacity and drive for accomplishment and recognition. For wisdom, the first dimension was reasoning ability and sagacity, the second was learning from ideas and environment and judgment, and the third was expeditious use of information and perspicacity.

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