Explaining age-related decline in theory of mind: Evidence for intact competence but compromised executive function

Autoři: Isu Cho aff001;  Adam S. Cohen aff001
Působiště autorů: Department of Psychology and Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada aff001
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(9)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222890


Previous studies suggest theory of mind (ToM) ability declines with age. However, prior tasks not only required ToM competence but also imposed high executive function (EF) demands, so decline in ToM ability could be caused by deterioration in ToM competence, EF, or both. It was predicted that if the elderly have intact ToM competence but compromised EF, then they should perform similarly to younger adults when using ToM tasks that lower executive demands, such as spontaneous-response tasks. Results showed that on tasks with reduced demands, older adults tracked belief to the same extent as younger adults, despite their declining EF. The findings support a model in which age-related decline in ToM ability is primarily caused by compromised EF, not ToM competence, suggesting that underlying ToM mechanisms are still intact in the elderly. We discuss implications of this work for competence-performance issues in ToM processing and the underlying sources of age-related deterioration of ToM.

Klíčová slova:

People and places – Population groupings – Age groups – Elderly – Biology and life sciences – Neuroscience – Cognitive science – Cognitive psychology – Reasoning – Cognitive neuroscience – Reaction time – Working memory – Cognition – Memory – Sensory systems – Visual system – Eye movements – Learning and memory – Psychology – Theory of mind – Physiology – Sensory physiology – Social sciences – Research and analysis methods – Mathematical and statistical techniques – Statistical methods – Metaanalysis – Physical sciences – Mathematics – Statistics – Medicine and health sciences


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2019 Číslo 9

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