Lamar Smith is a 2012 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara


Native Americans, Native Studies, Wisdom, Qualitative, Phenomenology, Positive Psychology, worldview

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This qualitative study examined implicit theories of wisdom in a sample of adult individuals who identified as Native American. The research question focused on definitions of wisdom as they exist in the Native American Community. A total of eight participants were asked to answer the question “What is wisdom and how does one become wise?”. Interviews approximately 60 minutes in length revealed several themes in participant’s conceptualizations of wisdom. The study revealed that participants believed wisdom to be based on fundamental building blocks of a worldview of interconnectedness, a collectivist social structure, and an individual value system promoting of personal development. Participants outline the worldview of interconnectedness as involving components of caretaking, both of others and of nature, and connections through a higher power, which reportedly lead to understandings of the consequences of being out of balance with their connection to nature and others and a desire to use knowledge for the greatest good possible. Participants pointed to a collectivist social structure comprised of family, elders, and the larger community as providing a sense of context for understanding one’s place in life, facilitating the sharing of knowledge from one generation to the next, often through the medium of storytelling, and community structures and roles that promote the growth of wisdom. Participants reported an individual value system promoting personal development as a central component to the development of wisdom including learning from mistakes, life experience, and learning patience. Discussions of the findings include recommendations for therapist and educators in fostering wisdom in their students and their clients. The electronic version of this dissertation is available free at Ohiolink ETD Center,