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Does performance on theory of mind tasks decline in old age?

Maylor, Elizabeth A., Moulson, Jane M., Muncer, Ann-Marie, Taylor, Louise A. (2002) Does performance on theory of mind tasks decline in old age? British Journal of Psychology, 93 (4). pp. 465-485. ISSN 0007-1269. E-ISSN 2044-8295. (doi:10.1348/000712602761381358) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:91256)

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Abstract

In the first reported study of theory of mind (ToM; the ability to attribute mental states) in old age, Happeá, Winner, and Brownell (1998) observed better performance on ToM tasks in older participants (mean age 73 years) than in young participants (mean age 21 years). We present two experiments exploring the generality of this finding. Experiment 1 compared young, young-old, and old-old age groups (mean ages 19, 67, and 81 years, respectively) on their understanding of ToM stories both with and without the need to remember the information, and control studies that did not require the ability to attribute mental states. For ToM stories with a memory load, the young group performed significantly better than both the young-old and old-old groups; without a memory load, the young and young-old groups performed significantly better than the old-old group. In Experiment 2, young and old-old age groups (mean ages 21 and 81 years, respectively) were compared on their understanding of ToM and control stories without the need to remember the information. Again, the young group performed significantly better than the old-old group on ToM stories. There were no significant age differences in performance on the control stories in either experiment. The age deficit on ToM stories remained significant after taking account of measures of vocabulary and processing speed (Experiments 1 and 2), and measures of executive functioning (Experiment 2).

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1348/000712602761381358
Uncontrolled keywords: Theory of mind, ToM
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Depositing User: Ann-Marie Towers
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2021 10:46 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:27 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/91256 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Muncer, Ann-Marie: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3597-1061
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