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Jun 09, 2014 11:40 AM EDT

With Distance Comes Greater Wisdom

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People who distance themselves from a troubling personal dilemma are more likely to think wisely about it, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that greater wisdom comes when people reflect on a relationship conflict of their own or someone else's, such as a spouse's infidelity with a close friend, and think about the conflict in the first and third person, according to a press release.

"These results are the first to demonstrate a new type of bias within ourselves when it comes to wise reasoning about an interpersonal relationship dilemma," Professor Igor Grossmann said in a statement. "We call the bias Solomon's Paradox, after the king who was known for his wisdom, but who still failed at making personal decisions."

For the study, researchers asked participants to reflect on a relationship conflict of their own or someone else's and think about the conflict in the first and third person. They then compared results from younger adults aged 20 to 40 and those aged 60 to 80.

Researchers said that contrary to the adage that with age comes wisdom, the older adults were not more likely to reason wisely about their personal dilemma than their younger counterparts.

"We are the first to demonstrate that there is a simple way to eliminate this bias in reasoning by talking about ourselves in the third person and using our name when reflecting on a relationship conflict," Grossmann said. "When we employ this strategy, we are more likely to think wisely about an issue."

The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

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