The primary purpose of the proposed research is to examine adult age differences in the manner in which events and people are remembered. There is growing evidence that age differences in memory are attenuated when older adults can draw upon existing knowledge to interpret an event and thereby organize its representation in memory. When the event to be remembered is relatively novel or inconsistent with experience, older adults are at a disadvantage relative to younger adults. The proposed project builds upon previous research by examining age differences in knowledge influences on social cognition (i.e., the processing of information in social contexts). Few studies exist that have examined such processes in relation to aging, with most of the research on cognitive skills being studied in nonsocial contexts. If we are to further our understanding of everyday functioning of older adults, which includes participation in social interactions, research needs to be performed that specifically examines the extent to which existing notions of cognitive aging generalize across contexts. Of primary concern in the present research are aspects of social cognition that deal with how we interpret and remember the behavior of others. Two specific areas are of concern. First, age differences will be examined in social knowledge concerning person-types and personality traits. Both types of information are important in interpreting the behavior of others, and potential changes in such knowledge associated with age-related social role transitions could result in young and old adults interpreting the same person information in totally different ways. Such mismatches in knowledge could well be the source of age-group stereotypes held by different-aged individuals. Second, age differences will also be examined in the extent to which general social knowledge versus specific situational information is remembered and used in processing information about people. If older adults rely more on general knowledge-based information, they may form more stereotyped impressions of people they meet because they are less likely to retain or attend to specific behavioral information. Age differences in such processes would have great implications for the ease of attitude change in different-aged adults. It is hoped that the results of this research will provide a clearer understanding of the cognitive skills of older adults as they pertain to social behavior.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
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North Carolina State University Raleigh
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United States
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Queen, Tara L; Hess, Thomas M (2018) Linkages between Resources, Motivation, and Engagement in Everyday Activities. Motiv Sci 4:26-38
Hess, Thomas M; Growney, Claire M; Lothary, Allura F (2018) Motivation moderates the impact of aging stereotypes on effort expenditure. Psychol Aging :
Hess, Thomas M; Growney, Claire M; O'Brien, Erica L et al. (2018) The role of cognitive costs, attitudes about aging, and intrinsic motivation in predicting engagement in everyday activities. Psychol Aging 33:953-964
Hess, Thomas M; O'Brien, Erica L; Growney, Claire M et al. (2018) Use of descriptive and experiential information in decision making by young and older adults. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 25:500-519
Hess, Thomas M; Popham, Lauren E; Growney, Claire M (2017) Age-Related Effects on Memory for Social Stimuli: The Role of Valence, Arousal, and Emotional Responses. Exp Aging Res 43:105-123
Hess, Thomas M; Smith, Brian T; Sharifian, Neika (2016) Aging and effort expenditure: The impact of subjective perceptions of task demands. Psychol Aging 31:653-660
Smith, Brian T; Hess, Thomas M (2015) The Impact of Motivation and Task Difficulty on Resource Engagement: Differential Influences on Cardiovascular Responses of Young and Older Adults. Motiv Sci 1:22-36
Hess, Thomas M; Smith, Brian T (2014) Aging and the impact of irrelevant information on social judgments. Psychol Aging 29:542-53
Hess, Thomas M (2014) Selective Engagement of Cognitive Resources: Motivational Influences on Older Adults' Cognitive Functioning. Perspect Psychol Sci 9:388-407
Hess, Thomas M; Ennis, Gilda E (2014) Assessment of Adult Age differences in Task Engagement: The Utility of Systolic Blood Pressure. Motiv Emot 38:844-854

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