Objectives: Older adults tend to have poorer Theory of Mind (ToM) than their younger counterparts, and this has been shown in both Western and Asian cultures. We examined the role of working memory (WM) in age differences in ToM, and whether this was moderated by education and culture (the United Kingdom vs. Malaysia). Methods: We used 2 ToM tests with differing demands on updating multiple mental states (false belief) and applying social rules to mental state processing (faux pas). We also looked at the role of education, socioeconomic status, and WM. A total of 298 participants from the United Kingdom and Malaysia completed faux pas, false belief, and WM tasks. Results: Age effects on some aspects of ToM were greater in the Malaysian compared to the UK sample. Malaysian older adults were poorer at faux pas detection, aspects of false belief, and WM compared to young adults. In subsequent moderated mediation analyses, we found that, specifically in the Malaysian sample, the mediating effects of WM on the age and ToM relationship occurred at the lowest levels of education. Discussion: This pattern of results may reflect changes in the familiarity and cognitive load of explicit mental state attribution, along with cultural differences in the pace and nature of cognitive aging. Cultural differences in education and WM should be considered when researching age differences in ToM.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences|
|Early online date||24 May 2021|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Feb 2022|
This work was supported by Newton Fund Institutional Links grant ID: 331745333, under NewtonUngku Omar Fund partnership to LP. The grant is funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and delivered by the British Council. For further information, please visit www.newtonfund.ac.uk.
We would like to thank our participants who took part in this study. We would also like to thank Laura Cowie, Zuzana Suchomelova, Sara Gunnarsson, Dariusz Bogrucki and Ria Heryani Mumfahir for their assistance with task piloting and data collection. This study was not preregistered.
Data Availability StatementMore details on the data is available in OSF at this link https://osf.io/5evfw/?view_only=34b28f69d57946aebf6c890505353a3c
- Executive Function
- Working Memory