Sources of cognitive conflict and their relevance to Theory of Mind proficiency in healthy ageing. A preregistered study.

Foyzul Rahman*, Klaus Kessler, Ian Apperly, Peter Hansen, Carol Holland, Sabrina Javed, Charlotte Hartwright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Age-related decline in Theory of Mind (ToM) may be due to waning executive control, which is necessary for resolving conflict when reasoning about others’ mental states. We assessed how older (OA; n=50) versus younger adults (YA; n=50) were affected by three theoretically relevant sources of conflict within ToM: competing Self-Other perspectives; competing cued locations and outcome knowledge. We examined which best accounted for age-related difficulty with ToM. Our data show unexpected similarity between age groups when representing a belief incongruent with one’s own. Individual differences in attention and motor response speed best explained the degree of conflict experienced through conflicting Self-Other perspectives. However, OAs were disproportionately affected by managing conflict between cued locations. Age and spatial working memory were most relevant for predicting the magnitude of conflict elicited by conflicting cued locations. We suggest that previous studies may have underestimated OA’s ToM proficiency by including unnecessary conflict in ToM tasks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Science
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

CC BY

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