Do cognitive reserve and executive functions matter to perform the reading the mind in the eyes test in late lifespan?
Fastame M. C.
AbstractTheory of Mind (ToM) is the capacity to understand the feelings and emotional states (i.e., affective ToM) or intentions, goals, and beliefs (i.e., cognitive ToM) of others. Previous evidence on the effect of executive functions and educational attainment on affective ToM is controversial. This study was conducted to investigate: (1) the nature of the associations between affective ToM and some indexes of cognitive reserve (i.e., years of education, vocabulary) in late adulthood when age was controlled; (2) whether cognitive reserve (e.g., years of education, leisure activities, vocabulary) and age predicted affective ToM in late adulthood; (3) the associations between affective ToM and some executive functions measures in late adulthood, controlling for the effect of age; (4) whether executive functioning predicted affective ToM performance; (5) whether some executive functions (i.e., cognitive flexibility and inhibition) mediated between vocabulary score (i.e., used as an index of cognitive reserve) and affective ToM score. Fifty-six 75–93-year-old community-dwellers completed a battery of tasks to assess some executive functions and affective ToM skills (i.e., through the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test). It was found that vocabulary, age, and participation in outdoor socio-recreational leisure activities predicted 31% of the variance in the Reading the Mind in the Eyes condition. Moreover, significant relationships were found between ToM and some executive functions, that is, cognitive flexibility and inhibition predicted 34% of the ToM score. Finally, cognitive flexibility and inhibition mediate between cognitive reserve (i.e., assessed in terms of vocabulary) and Reading the Mind in the Eyes test score.
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