Solomon Paradox and Wiser Human Beings

2 minute read


King Solomon, the third leader of the Jewish Kingdom, is considered the nonsuch of wisdom. People travelled a long way just to ask for his exhortation. However, it’s known that his personal life and character are not in line with what his tact looks like to other people. This somewhat becomes a paradox.

Interestingly, such a paradox also emerges in human itself. Igor Grossmann, a psychological scientist at University of Waterloo, has been conducting studies on how human wisdom works. The primary concern is that people tend to reason more wisely about other people’s problems than about their own. What he’s been trying to answer are the reasons why this tendency occurs and how to gain a better capability to reason more wisely about personal problems.

The initial stage on his work was validating that Solomon’s paradox is truly a natural tendency of human’s psychological response. He recruited volunteers who were in a romantic relationship and divide them into two groups. The first group is asked to envisage a condition where they are cheated by their partner. Meanwhile, the second group is asked to conceive a situation where they know that their best friend is cheated.

Afterwards, each volunteer was asked about how he/she would reason about the relationship conflicts. Each volunteer in the first group thought about how he/she would reason about his/her situation. For instance, they might ask something like “Why am I having such a feeling? “ or “What are my thoughts and feelings on this relationship conflicts?”. Meanwhile, the second group also did the same thing yet now in terms of how he/she would reason about the situation happended to his/her best friend. Questions, such as “Why he/she is having such a feeling?” and “What are his/her thoughts and feelings on this problem?” are a few examples.

Based on the experiment, Grossman found that the second group reasons about the problem in a wiser way. The rationale behind such a result was people in the second group would have more psychological distance from the cheating problem.

Having known that psychological distance might be the primary way of achieving the symmetry of wise reasoning, Grossman conducted one more trial. This time, either the conflicts were faced by personal or best friends, half of each group is told to do reasoning from self-perspective. They might ask themselves with the followings: “What are my thoughts and feelings?” or “Why can I have such thoughts and feelings?”. Meanwhile, the other half of each group does the same thing but from third-person perspective (self-distancing). This might be achieved by asking the same questions, yet using “he/she” instead of “I”.

The result? Those who were applying third-person perspective achieved wiser reasoning. This finally shows that self-distancing creates the symmetry in wise reasoning (both for personal and others’ conflicts).