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Social cognition across the lifespan and its relation to executive functions

De Lillo, Martina (2021) Social cognition across the lifespan and its relation to executive functions. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.87222) (KAR id:87222)


Successful social interactions represent a crucial aspect of our everyday life. To achieve this, we have to interpret and understand others' thoughts and intentions, take their perspective, and empathize with them. All these processes characterize a wider concept called "social cognition". This thesis aims to shed light on social cognition across the lifespan by adopting a large battery of tasks that included behavioural, EEG, and real-world eye-tracking measures. Starting from the hypothesis that social cognition is impaired in adolescence and old age, I compared the performance of these two age groups with young adults on measures of perspective-taking, empathy and social attention. Results revealed that age modulates different sub-components of social cognition in distinct ways; more cognitively demanding components are more likely to suffer a decline in older age. In addition, due to the link between social cognition and executive functions, this work also tested whether cognitive and social abilities can be enhanced indirectly through cognitive training. In particular, I designed a 21-day cognitive training protocol that targets Working Memory, Inhibitory Control, or Cognitive Flexibility (versus an active control group) to test whether improvements can be detected on the training task (direct transfers) or on a task that measures the same cognitive ability (near transfers), and test the generalisability of these effects to other cognitive and social constructs (far transfers). Whereas robust direct training effects emerged, limited near transfers and no far transfers were detected.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Ferguson, Heather
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.87222
Uncontrolled keywords: social cognition, aging, cognitive training
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2021 10:17 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2024 00:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

De Lillo, Martina.

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