Social cognition is not associated with cognitive reserve in older adults

Louise M. Lavrencic, Lisa Kurylowicz, Michael J. Valenzuela, Owen F. Churches, Hannah A.D. Keage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Social and general cognitive abilities decline in late life. Those with high cognitive reserve display better general cognitive performance in old age; however, it is unknown whether this is also the case for social cognition. A total of 115 healthy older adults, aged 60-85 years (m = 44, f = 71) were assessed using The Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT-R; social cognition), the Lifetime of Experiences Questionnaire (LEQ; cognitive reserve), and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI-II; general cognitive ability). The LEQ did not predict performance on any TASIT-R subtest: Emotion Evaluation Test (β = -.097, p =.325), Social Inference - Minimal (β = -.004, p =.972), or Social Inference - Enriched (β = -.016, p =.878). Sensitivity analyses using two alternative cognitive reserve measures, years of education and the National Adult Reading Test, supported these effects. Cognitive reserve was strongly related to WASI-II performance. Unlike general cognitive ability, social cognition appears unaffected by cognitive reserve. Findings contribute to the emerging understanding that cognitive reserve differentially affects individual cognitive domains, which has implications for the theoretical understanding of cognitive reserve and its brain correlates. Cognitive measures unbiased by cognitive reserve may serve as best indicators of brain health, free of compensatory mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-77
Number of pages17
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive reserve
  • Emotion Evaluation
  • Older adults
  • Sex differences
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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