Increasing attention has been devoted in recent years to the issue of adaptive cognition in adulthood. An emerging view suggests that adaptive cognitive changes in particular contexts or domains may continue for many adults well into the latter half of the life span. This view posits a reexamination of more traditional formalistic concepts of cognition and suggests an interface with self-related variables such as motivational and interpersonal processes. The purpose of the proposed research is to respond to the above orientation and examine dimensions of adaptive cognition in adulthood and aging in the form of attributional processes. The study of causal attributions in a developmental contest will help operationalize the developmental criteria of cognitive maturity expoused in the recent adult cognitive-developmental literature in a social-cognitive framework. Four studies will apply a cognitive-developmental analysis to causal attribution processes of early adolescents (ages 13-15), adolescents (ages 16-19), youths (ages 20-29), three mature adult groups (ages 30-39; 40-49; 50-59), young-old (ages 60-69) and old-old (ages 70-79). The first two studies will examine adult developmental patterns in committing attributional biases. Location of causality and assignment of responsibility will be assessed. Subjects will respond to 4 attributional scales in a structured and free response format, involving actors in 10 action vignette sequences. In addition, the degree to which causal attributions covary with other aspects of social cognition thought to demonstrate progressive change in adulthood will be examined. The next two studies will examine this attributional pattern using self-generated and protocol analysis procedures. A think-aloud procedure will be used along with attributional assignment scales. Resultant causal attributional biases will be assessed. For all above studies, it is proposed that attributional biases will decrease with age and covary with other developmental maturity measures resulting in more integrative and complex causal analyses of behavior. The immediate aim of this 5-year project is to establish attributional processes involved in cognitive maturity by using a more process-oriented approach. From a long term perspective, adaptive changes in attributional processes have further implications for adaptive coping skills in adult development.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
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Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
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Louisiana State University A&M Col Baton Rouge
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Baton Rouge
United States
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Horhota, Michelle; Mienaltowski, Andrew; Blanchard-Fields, Fredda (2012) If only I had taken my usual routeā€¦: age-related differences in counter-factual thinking. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 19:339-61
Blanchard-Fields, Fredda; Hertzog, Christopher; Horhota, Michelle (2012) Violate my beliefs? Then you're to blame! Belief content as an explanation for causal attribution biases. Psychol Aging 27:324-37
Stanley, Jennifer Tehan; Blanchard-Fields, Fredda (2011) Beliefs about behavior account for age differences in the correspondence bias. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 66:169-76
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Blanchard-Fields, Fredda; Chen, Yiwei; Horhota, Michelle et al. (2007) Cultural differences in the relationship between aging and the correspondence bias. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 62:P362-5
Stein, Renee; Blanchard-Fields, Fredda; Hertzog, Christopher (2002) The effects of age-stereotype priming on the memory performance of older adults. Exp Aging Res 28:169-81
Blanchard-Fields, F (1994) Age differences in causal attributions from an adult developmental perspective. J Gerontol 49:P43-51