Promoting theory of mind in older adults: Does age play a role?

Alessia Rosi, Elena Cavallini, Sara Bottiroli, Federica Bianco, Serena Lecce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Previous research on age-related changes in Theory of Mind (ToM) showed a decline in older adults, particularly pronounced over 75 years of age. Evidence that ToM may be enhanced in healthy aging people has been demonstrated, but no study has focused on the role of age on the effects of ToM training for elderly people. The present study was designed to examine the efficacy of a ToM training on practiced (ToM Strange Stories) and transfer tasks (ToM Animations) in both young and older adults.Method: The study involved 127 older adults belonging to two age groups: young-old (Mage = 64.41; SD = 2.49; range: 60-69 years) and old-old (Mage = 75.66; SD = 4.38; range: 70-85 years), randomly assigned to either a ToM group or a control group condition. All participants took part in two 2-hour testing sessions and four 2-hour training sessions.Results: Results showed that both young-old and old-old adults in the ToM group condition improved their ability to reason on complex-mental states significantly more than participants in the control group condition. This positive effect of the training was evident on practiced and transfer ToM tasks. Crucially, age did not moderate the effect of the ToM training.Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that young-old and old-old adults equally benefit from the ToM training. Implications for the positive effect of the ToM training in old-old adults are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-28
Number of pages7
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2016


  • aging
  • old-old
  • role of age
  • theory of mind
  • training
  • young-old

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology
  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Promoting theory of mind in older adults: Does age play a role?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this