Age and experience influences on the complexity of social inferences

  • Hess T
  • Osowski N
  • Leclerc C
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Abstract

Age differences in social-cognitive functioning were assessed by examining sensitivity to the trait implications of behavioral cues when making social inferences. Adults (age range = 23-86 years) read target descriptions containing positive and negative behaviors relating to either morality or competence. Consistent with past research, middle-aged and older adults were more likely than younger adults to make inferences consistent with the trait-diagnostic implications of the behaviors. Age was also associated with increased sensitivity to additional cues that moderated the diagnostic value of behaviors based on simple descriptive content. The authors argue that these age differences reflect a type of expertise based in accumulated social experience, a conclusion bolstered by an additional finding that social activity moderated age differences in social judgments.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Aging
  • Expertise
  • Social cognition
  • Social inference

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Authors

  • Thomas M. Hess

  • Nicole L. Osowski

  • Christina M. Leclerc

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