Difference between Intelligence and Wisdom

By: | Updated: Nov-18, 2017
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There are so many words we can use to describe a person’s mind. We can say he is clever, smart, intelligent, wise, educated, and well-read. But each of these characteristics refers to specific traits and they cannot be used interchangeably. Let’s start with the difference between intelligence and wisdom as an example.

Summary Table

Intelligence Wisdom
The ability to acquire and apply information The ability to think and act in accordance with vast knowledge, experience, common sense and great insight
Associated with learning Associated with experience
An attribute of a curious nature An attribute of a just nature
Used to solve situations Used to judge complicated issues
Could be limited to the ability to acquire and apply a specific type of information (factual or emotional information for example) Is supposed to help a person look beyond appearances and the best solution while taking into account all facets of an issue
Implies the application of knowledge acquired Implies an understanding of right and wrong
Associated with animals that are easily trained and that assimilate information such as dogs and dolphins Associated with animals said to be long lived and therefore capable of acquiring experience: owl, tortoise, elephants



Intelligence is defined as the ability to acquire new information, to turn it into personal knowledge and to use the information when needed. Although it is a human characteristic, we can also observe it in animals that are capable of learning, such as dogs, dolphins, elephants, horses and others that are easily trained. Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and their ability to assess and apply information.

Intelligence is strongly connected to learning and the acquisition of information. However, it does not apply to all types of information the same way. Some people are more prone to acquire information of a certain nature than others. For example, some people can understand facts and figures, but cannot assess emotional information of any kind. And vice-versa.

We also use the term “intelligence” for information regarding national security, acquired through espionage. This information has a very high value and it is usually very difficult to obtain.

An owl – the symbol of wisdom

Wisdom is a virtue and it refers to the ability to think and act in accordance with a high level of knowledge, common sense, great experience and an understanding of the situation. It is something we generally associate with old age, on account of the vast experience required for a person to be perceived as wise. It also involves having a lot of insight and a capacity to see beyond appearances and into the situation, to assess consequences of various courses of action and to choose the best one. Knowing the difference between right and wrong is essential in this case.

We associate the idea of wisdom to animals like owls and tortoises since they are thought to live long lives and thus gather experience.

Intelligence vs Wisdom

So what is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?

There is a reason why in stories, the characters most fit to pass judgment and help the hero in his quest are “wise” and not “intelligent.” Wisdom is supposed to come with age and experience, but it also depends on an individual’s ability to apply knowledge at a deeper level than the analysis and application of facts. It requires insight, common sense and a very clear distinction between right and wrong.

Intelligence, on the other hand, means the ability to acquire and apply information. It is something similar to what a computer could do. An intelligent person can sometimes be limited by the type of intelligence he has. A wise person, on the other hand, is capable of seeing beyond the facts and getting a full picture of the situation.

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