Social Cognition in Later Life: Effects of Aging and Task Type on Theory of Mind Performance
Claire Doyle Thesis.doc (285Kb)
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Doyle, Claire L.
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Abstract Recent studies assessing the effects of age and task type on theory of mind (ToM) have found mixed results. However, these studies have not considered the possibility that by using a series of distinct and unrelated tasks, other confounding factors are likely to affect performance, such as the type of ToM reasoning required, the length of the social interactions, the characters involved etc. Moreover, most have relied on traditional ToM tests which lack resemblance to real-world social interactions, and are thus of questionable ecological validity. This study compared younger and older adults on stories and video tasks based on identical social interactions, with the aim to provide a more reliable reflection of the effect of task type on ToM ability. Both groups were assessed on a video task (the TASIT, Parts 2 and 3), and a stories task (transcribed from this video stimuli). We predicted that the increased ecological validity and the additional contextual and paralinguistic cues of the video task would result in higher scores for both groups on this measure, but that older adults would show an impaired performance on both tasks compared to younger participants. Results revealed a significantly more accurate performance on the video task than the stories task, but no age impairment was found. The findings are discussed in relation to previous literature on the effects of aging and task type on ToM, and the use of video stimuli such as the TASIT as more ecologically valid assessments of ToM.