Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 143–161 | Cite as

Cross-Cultural Comparison of Self-Transcendent Wisdom Between the United States and Korea

  • Sulim Lee
  • Soyoung Choun
  • Carolyn M. Aldwin
  • Michael R. Levenson


Whether wisdom is a culturally-specific or universal construct is a matter of some debate (see Curnow 1999; Grossman et al. Psychological Science, 2012). This study compared similarities and differences in the factor structure of a measure of wisdom focused on self-transcendence in U.S. (n = 305, M age = 33.99) and Korean samples (n = 838, M age = 30.28), with ages ranging from 20 to 73). The Adult Self-Transcendence Inventory (ASTI; Levenson et al. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 60, 127–143, 2005) has two factors, self-transcendence and alienation, the latter of which was included to differentiate between social withdrawals due to contemplative practices versus that due to depression. Confirmatory factor analyses found a partial scalar factorial invariance model fit the data best, indicating that the factor structure of the ASTI is largely equivalent and that the construct is comparable across the two cultures. Regression analyses showed that age and religiousness were related to self-transcendence and alienation. Education was related to self-transcendence only. The interaction between age and culture was significant on alienation; alienation was higher in mid-life Koreans but not in Americans, which may reflect either age or cohort effects. Thus, self-transcendence may be a more universal measure of wisdom than those based on pragmatics or cognitive functioning.


Self-transcendence Alienation Wisdom Cross-cultural Factorial invariance Age 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sulim Lee
    • 1
  • Soyoung Choun
    • 2
  • Carolyn M. Aldwin
    • 2
  • Michael R. Levenson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology at Open CyberUniversity in South KoreaSeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Human Development and Family Sciences, School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, College of Public Health and Human SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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