Age differences in cognitive and affective theory of mind: Concurrent contributions of neurocognitive performance, sex, and pulse pressure

Ashley L. Fischer, Norm O'Rourke, Wendy Loken Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: Theory of mind (ToM) allows us to detect and make inferences about cognitive and affective mental states. Mixed findings exist regarding (a) age differences in cognitive and affective ToM and (b) what mechanisms may underlie changes in the two components. We addressed these questions by examining the unique and joint contributions of neurocognitive performance, pulse pressure (PP), and biological sex to age differences in cognitive and affective ToM. Method: We tested 86 young and 85 older adults on standardized measures of neurocognitive performance and ToM. Predictors were derived from demographics (sex), in-office PP, and measures of executive functions, semantic memory, and episodic memory. We used path analysis to identify concurrent predictors of cognitive and affective ToM between groups and invariance analyses to assess age differences in the relative strength of identified predictors. Results: We demonstrated robust age differences in cognitive and affective ToM. Certain neurocognitive predictors of ToM were more salient among older individuals; most predictors were shared across age groups and equivalent in magnitude. Discussion: To our knowledge, this study represents the most comprehensive investigation to date of predictors of ToM in aging. Findings highlight the need for continued investigation of ToM within a multidimensional framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume72
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Keywords

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Neuropsychology
  • Path analyses
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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