Objectives: Previous research has shown a decline in Theory of mind (ToM) associated with normal aging. However, very few studies have investigated older people’s ToM using an ecological approach. The present study was designed to fill this gap and examine older people’s frequency of mental state talk (MST) in describing their best friend, together with their performance on a traditional ToM task. In addition, the study examined the association between these two ToM indices and relationships with friends and family members. Method: Seventy-two healthy older adults (age range 60–79) participated in the study. We measured ToM ability with a classic measure, the Faux Pas task, and selected the Describe-a-friend task to measure MST frequency; social relationships were investigated with the Lubben Social Network Scale. Correlation and regression analyses were performed. Results: No significant association between MST and scores on the Faux Pas task emerged. In addition, MST (but not Faux Pas scores) significantly predicted friendships (but not family relationships) over and above general cognitive functioning. Conclusion: These findings show the crucial distinction between possessing an ability and using it in daily life and suggest the need to move toward more ecological measures of older adults’ abilities. In addition, the present results indicate that the spontaneous use of ToM ability, not the ability per se, impacts on older adults’ social relationships.

Theory of mind, mental state talk and social relationships in aging: The case of friendship

Ceccato I.
Secondo
;
2019

Abstract

Objectives: Previous research has shown a decline in Theory of mind (ToM) associated with normal aging. However, very few studies have investigated older people’s ToM using an ecological approach. The present study was designed to fill this gap and examine older people’s frequency of mental state talk (MST) in describing their best friend, together with their performance on a traditional ToM task. In addition, the study examined the association between these two ToM indices and relationships with friends and family members. Method: Seventy-two healthy older adults (age range 60–79) participated in the study. We measured ToM ability with a classic measure, the Faux Pas task, and selected the Describe-a-friend task to measure MST frequency; social relationships were investigated with the Lubben Social Network Scale. Correlation and regression analyses were performed. Results: No significant association between MST and scores on the Faux Pas task emerged. In addition, MST (but not Faux Pas scores) significantly predicted friendships (but not family relationships) over and above general cognitive functioning. Conclusion: These findings show the crucial distinction between possessing an ability and using it in daily life and suggest the need to move toward more ecological measures of older adults’ abilities. In addition, the present results indicate that the spontaneous use of ToM ability, not the ability per se, impacts on older adults’ social relationships.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11564/723112
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