The Science of Wisdom: Current Findings in Wisdom Research

Since the 1950s, the study of wisdom has migrated from theology and philosophy to psychology and neurobiology, revealing significant findings not only about how wisdom develops and is defined, but how wisdom may be modified by such conditions as culture, social contexts, and psychological and physiological states. The research has challenged a number of misconceptions about wisdom including, for example, that wisdom is a function of aging or a static character quality. We’ll explore such questions as: How can wisdom be assessed? Is wisdom homogenous cross-culturally? Is wisdom a function of knowledge, experience or character? Can wisdom be taught or learned?

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Monica Franz $170.00 1 Register

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. The October section runs from Monday, October 11 to Friday, November 5. The November section runs Monday, November 8 to Friday December 3. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to discussion board topics, and engage in course activities.

  • October section students will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
  • November section students will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Outline the history of wisdom research from its beginnings in the 1950s to its current state
  • Describe the four foundational models of wisdom and their specific applications
  • Describe psycho-neurobiological contributions to wise functioning and the issue of traumatic growth
  • Discuss the correlation between our capacity for awe, wonder and wisdom
  • Consider the challenges arising from wisdom as pedagogy and their implications for the development of a wise society

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Reading academic and non-academic articles, and other resources
  • Opportunities for self-reflection
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in discussion in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1

Why does wisdom matter? An introduction to the history of wisdom research.

Week 2

Making the enigmatic intelligible: the foundational models defining wisdom.

Week 3

What does neurobiology have to do with it? New frontiers of wisdom research.

Week 4

A curriculum for the development of wisdom? Creating the conditions for wise societies.

Books, materials and resources

You will access course resources using SFU’s online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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