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Journal Article

The aging of the social mind: Differential effects on components of social understanding

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Reiter,  Andrea
Lifespan Developmental Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, TU Dresden, Germany;
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Kanske,  Philipp
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, TU Dresden, Germany;

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Citation

Reiter, A., Kanske, P., Eppinger, B., & Li, S.-C. (2017). The aging of the social mind: Differential effects on components of social understanding. Scientific Reports, 7: 11046. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10669-4.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-FAEE-8
Abstract
Research in younger adults dissociates cognitive from affective facets of social information processing, rather than promoting a monolithic view of social intelligence. An influential theory on adult development suggests differential effects of aging on cognitive and affective functions. However, this dissociation has not been directly tested in the social domain. Employing a newly developed naturalistic paradigm that disentangles facets of the social mind within an individual, we show multi-directionality of age-related differences. Specifically, components of the socio-cognitive route – Theory of Mind and metacognition – are impaired in older relative to younger adults. Nevertheless, these social capacities are still less affected by aging than factual reasoning and metacognition regarding non-social content. Importantly, the socio-affective route is well-functioning, with no decline in empathy and elevated compassion in the elderly. These findings contribute to an integrated theory of age-related change in social functioning and inform interventions tailored to specifically reinstate socio-cognitive skills in old age.