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The ageing of the social mind: Replicating the preservation of socio-affective and the decline of socio-cognitive processes in old age

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Kanske,  Philipp
Chair for Clinical Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology, TU Dresden, Germany;
Research Group Social Stress and Family Health, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Stietz, J., Pollerhoff, L., Kurtz, M., Li, S.-C., Reiter, A. M. F., & Kanske, P. (2021). The ageing of the social mind: Replicating the preservation of socio-affective and the decline of socio-cognitive processes in old age. Royal Society Open Science, 8(8): 210641. doi:10.1098/rsos.210641.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-41E1-F
Abstract
Anticipating population ageing to reach a historically unprecedented level in this century and considering the public goal of promoting well-being until old age, research in many fields has started to focus on processes and factors that contribute to healthy ageing. Since human interactions have a tremendous impact on our mental and physical well-being, scientists are increasingly investigating the basic processes that enable successful social interactions such as social affect (empathy, compassion) and social cognition (Theory of Mind). However, regarding the replication crisis in psychological science it is crucial to probe the reproducibility of findings revealed by each specific method. To this end, we aimed to replicate the effect of age on empathy, compassion and Theory of Mind observed in Reiter and colleagues' study (Reiter et al. 2017 Sci. Rep. 7, 11046 (doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10669-4)) by using the same ecologically valid paradigm in an independent sample with similar age ranges. We were able to replicate the previously observed results of a preservation or even enhancement in socio-affective processes, but a decline in socio-cognitive processes for older adults. Our findings add to the understanding of how social affect and cognition change across the adult lifespan and may suggest targets for intervention studies aiming to foster successful social interactions and well-being until advanced old age.