A multifunction approach to assessing Aristotelian phronesis (practical wisdom)

Catherine Darnell, Blaine J. Fowers*, Kristján Kristjánsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychologists have actively studied wisdom for decades, but wisdom models and measures have been developed in an ad hoc manner, without the guidance of a core theory or philosophy. This has led to conceptual confusion and a lack of research cumulativeness. A four-function model of practical wisdom based on Aristotle's theory of phronesis (practical wisdom) has been proposed (Darnell et al., 2019). In this study, these four functions were approximated with existing measures to provide a “proof of concept” investigation. The constitutive function was assessed with virtue identification, selection, and relevance measures. The integrative function was estimated from observed measures of action choices and justifications. The blueprint function was estimated with measures of moral identity. The emotion regulation function was estimated with scales assessing empathy and perspective taking. A second-order factor model fit the hypothesized structure well with independent samples of UK adults and adolescents. This second-order factor was labeled phronesis and it correlated positively with the criterion measure of prosocial behavior. The results suggest the empirical viability of a four-function model of phronesis. Future studies are now indicated for tailoring assessments to measure the Aristotelian theory of phronesis more closely.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111684
Number of pages10
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date13 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the John Templeton Foundation grant # 3993 called Transformative Britain.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Performance measures
  • Phronesis
  • Second-order factor analysis
  • Wisdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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