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Older adults tend to exhibit more prosocial behavior than younger adults. However, little research has focused on understanding the factors that may explain such differences in the social decision-making process. The first aim was to examine if, and to what degree, the content of social information about a recipient has an impact on young vs. older adults’ prosocial behavior. The second aim was to understand if empathic concern, Theory of Mind, and reasoning explain the (expected) age differences in prosociality.
The study was conducted in northern Italy in a laboratory setting.
Prosocial behavior was measured using the Dictator Game in which participants split a sum of money with recipients presented with four levels of description: no information, physical description, positive psychological description, and negative psychological description. In addition, participants performed tasks on emphatic concern, Theory of Mind, and reasoning.
Results showed that older adults are more prosocial than younger adults in the Dictator Game. This finding was evident when the recipient was described with positive psychological and physical features. This pattern of results was statistically explained by the reduction in reasoning ability.
These findings suggest a relationship between age-related reduction in reasoning ability and older adults’ prosocial behavior. The theoretical and practical implication of the empirical findings are discussed.
Previous research has suggested that there is a degree of variability among older adults’ response to memory training, such that some individuals benefit more than others. The aim of the present study was to identify the profile of older adults who were likely to benefit most from a strategic memory training program that has previously proved to be effective in improving memory in healthy older adults.
In total, 44 older adults (60–83 years) participated in a strategic memory training. We examined memory training benefits by measuring changes in memory practiced (word list learning) and non-practiced tasks (grocery list and associative learning). In addition, a battery of cognitive measures was administered in order to assess crystallized and fluid abilities, short-term memory, working memory, and processing speed.
Results confirmed the efficacy of the training in improving performance in both practiced and non-practiced memory tasks. For the practiced memory tasks, results showed that memory baseline performance and crystallized ability predicted training gains. For the non-practiced memory tasks, analyses showed that memory baseline performance was a significant predictor of gain in the grocery list learning task. For the associative learning task, the significant predictors were memory baseline performance, processing speed, and marginally the age.
Our results indicate that older adults with a higher baseline memory capacity and with more efficient cognitive resources were those who tended to benefit most from the training. The present study provides new avenues in designing personalized intervention according to the older adults’ cognitive profile.
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