Underpinning prosociality: Age related performance in theory of mind, empathic understanding, and moral reasoning
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AbstractThis paper investigates the idea that Theory of Mind (ToM), empathic understanding and moral reasoning are linked, and together contribute to prosocial behaviour. All three cognitive processes are explored in adolescents (aged 14–17 years), young-adults (aged 18–24 years) and middle-adults (aged 25–55). A statistically significant age-related difference was found on all measures between the adolescent group and the middle-adult group. Except for verbal ToM, all measures detected a statistically significant age-related difference between the adolescent group and the young adult group. However, except for verbal and visual ToM, no statistically significant age-related difference was found between the young-adult and middle-adult groups. A small to medium positive association was found between each of the five measures. These findings suggest that beyond adolescence ToM, empathic understanding, and moral reasoning might be improved which could be useful to researchers and practitioners interested in the later enhancement of prosociality in older individuals.
CitationSpenser, K., Bull, R., Betts, L. and Winder, B., (2020). 'Underpinning prosociality: Age related performance in theory of mind, empathic understanding, and moral reasoning'. Cognitive Development, 56, pp. 1-10.