Does our cognitive empathy diminish with age? The moderator role of educational level
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Cambridge University Press
Cognitive empathyEyes textAgeEducational levelTheory of mind
Gutiérrez-Cobo, M... [et al.] (2021). Does our cognitive empathy diminish with age? The moderator role of educational level. International Psychogeriatrics, 1-8. doi:[10.1017/S1041610221000624]
SponsorshipAutism Research Trust; Wellcome Trust; Templeton World Charitable Foundation; NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Cambridge; Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) 777394; European Commission; EFPIA; AUTISM SPEAKS; Autistica; SFARI; National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East of England at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Introduction: The literature has demonstrated how the relationship between cognitive or emotional intelligence and age exhibits an inverted-U-shape and that this decline can be mitigated by an individual’s cognitive reserve (CR). Rather less is known, however, about the pattern of changes in cognitive empathy or the ability to recognize the thoughts or feelings of others. Objectives: The aim of the present study was firstly to analyze the effect of age, gender, and CR (measured through educational level), on the capacity to show cognitive empathy. Secondly, we aimed to evaluate what type of relationship—linear or quadratic—exists between age and cognitive empathy. We finally aimed to analyze the moderator role of educational level on the relationship between age and cognitive empathy. Participants: Totally, 902 Spanish adults aged between 18 and 79 years (M= 43.53, SD = 11.86; 57% women). Measurements: Participants were asked to indicate their educational level (primary, high school, or college education) and their cognitive empathy was assessed using the Eyes test. Results: Women scored higher than men on cognitive empathy. Participants with a college education had higher scores on cognitive empathy than those with a lower educational level. Additionally, the relationship between age and cognitive empathy fit an inverted-U-shaped curve, consistent with the data found for cognitive and emotional intelligence. Finally, the age-related decrease in cognitive empathy appeared to be mitigated by a higher educational level, but only in those individuals aged 35 years and above. Limitations and clinical implications are discussed.