For centuries, wisdom has fascinated philosophers, anthropologists, educators, psychologists (1, 2), and recently neuroscientists (3). Wisdom has been described as a state one arrives at through greater learning and engagement of the world from life experiences (1, 2). On the other hand, the world is incredibly vast, diverse, ever-changing, and frequently defies expectations. As one learns to adapt to the uncertainty in the world, the meta-level features of wisdom arise including metacognitive humility – the awareness of one’s limitation in knowledge and intelligence – and meta-level flexibility – a preference to remain open to alternative possibilities and changes. These meta-level features of wisdom contribute to adopting the perspective of others when providing advice on life dilemmas, i.e., imagining oneself experiencing the lives of the protagonists in the dilemmas and reasoning how they might see the world from their point of view (4). Indeed, metacognitive humility (MH), meta-level flexibility (MF), and perspective-taking (PT) are generally acknowledged as indicators of wisdom (2–5). Consequently, the "wise advising" paradigm investigates participants' MH, MF, and PT when advising protagonists in life dilemmas (6, 7).
Recently, an electroencephalogram (EEG) study found that resting-state neural oscillations in the frontal lobe were associated with wise advising from a second- (r > 0.36) but not a third-person perspective (7). Resting-state brain activity may be crucial for wisdom. When one is not engaged in processing external information, the DMN of the brain is more likely to undertake internally focused tasks, including self-referential processing and constructive internal reflections, e.g., encoding and retrieving self-referential stimuli (8), using past experiences to plan for the future, flexible self-relevant simulations to anticipate and evaluate future events, taking others' perspectives (9), recalling personal memories and meaning-making (10). These processes are vital for wisdom development and performance (11, 12). For example, a functional MRI (fMRI) study showed that wiser individuals demonstrate greater engagement of brain regions within the DMN for moral‐personal conditions (13).
On the other hand, advising from the second-person perspective should be more self-related than the third-person perspective. Previous research suggests that using the second-person pronoun "you" to refer to the self in communication is more prevalent in contexts requiring explicit self-control (14) and plays a crucial role in introspection (15) and making meaning from negative personal experiences (16). While the third-person perspective involves a distant observation of others, the second-person perspective implies a dynamic interaction with others (17–20). As shown by the previously mentioned EEG study, participants felt significantly less psychological distance from the protagonists when advising from a second- than a third-person perspective (7); wherein the psychological distance indicates the individuals' feeling that something is close or far away from the self (21).
Since the DMN is involved in reflection of personal life experiences and advising from the second-person perspective is more self-related, resting-state DMN activity should be more associated with wise advising from the second- than the third-person perspective. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an fMRI study to measure participants' resting-state ALFF – an fMRI method related to EEG power but with a greater spatial resolution (22) – prior to advising on various life dilemmas using either a second- or third-person perspective. Specifically, the DMN consists of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (BA 10, 24, 32), posterior cingulate cortex (BA 23, 29, 30, 31), inferior parietal lobule (BA 39, 40), lateral temporal cortex (BA 21) and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (BA 9, 10, 24, 32) (9, 23).