Positive Motives Make You Smarter Getty images

Problem-solving is an integral factor in judging a person's intelligence. We tend to look to others for help while deciphering the problems we face in life. This is because people are generally good at identifying the source of an issue when they are not a part of it. The third person's perspective often makes solving others' problems much easier than solving our own.

A new study published in Psychological Science a journal of the Association for Psychological Science has said that not everyone struggles to find a solution to personal problems.

According to a report published in Medical Xpress, "people who are motivated to develop the best in themselves and others" do not face this difficulty. The study says that people who approach their problems virtuously, look at their problems just as critically as they do with others.

"Our findings suggest that people who value virtuous motives may be able to reason wisely for them, and overcome personal biases observed in previous research," explains psychological scientist Alex Huynh of the University of Waterloo and lead of this study in the report. "This is in part due to their ability to recognize that their perspectives may not be enough to fully understand a situation, a concept referred to as intellectual humility."

The research found out that not just the situation but personal motives also affect the way we think. According to the article, past studies focused on how situations can affect a person's reasoning, but the new findings show us that personal motivations also play a crucial role.

"To our knowledge, this is the first research that empirically ties this conceptualization of virtue with wisdom, a connection that philosophers have been making for over two millennia," Huynh said.

"These findings open up new avenues for future research to investigate how to increase a person's level of wisdom."

Alex Huynh along with co-authors Harrison Oakes, Garrett R. Shay, and Ian McGregor recruited 267 university students to participate in this study.

The participants were asked to record their motivation to solve a given issue "by rating their agreement with statements like 'I would like to contribute to others or the surrounding world' and 'I would like to do what I believe in,'" said the report.

The students were also asked to think about either an unresolved personal conflict or a close friend's conflict and describe how they thought and felt about the situation. They were asked to rate the different possible reasoning strategies they would use in addressing the conflict.

According to the team, the results were as expected. "Participants who thought about a friend's dilemma considered wiser strategies to be more useful than did the participants who thought about their own personal issues."

But, factoring in the motivation to solve a problem seemed to bridge this gap in problem-solving abilities. People who were solving personal problems rated pre-judged 'wise' strategies as more valuable as their motivation to pursue virtue increased. People made wiser choices when they approached the problem with motives of bettering oneself or being virtuous.

What this means is that people who were motivated by the right reasons to solve their problem, chose better pathways to a solution. The study showed that as their need to be virtuous increased, so did their problem-solving.

On further studying the data the team found out that people who valued virtue may show wise reasoning because "they recognize that understanding the full scope of their problem necessitates going beyond their personal perspective," said the report.

"Everyone is susceptible to becoming too invested in their own perspectives, but this doesn't have to be the case for everybody. As these findings suggest, your own personality and motivational orientation can influence your ability to approach your personal problems in a calmer, wiser manner," said Huynh in the report.