The Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT): Examining the effects of age on a new measure of theory of mind and social norm understanding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Current measures of social cognition have shown inconsistent findings regarding the effects of healthy aging. Moreover, no tests are currently available that allow clinicians and researchers to examine cognitive and affective theory of mind (ToM) and understanding of social norms within the same test. To address these limitations, we present the Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT) which assesses cognitive and affective ToM and inter- and intrapersonal understanding of social norms. We examined the effects of age, measures of intelligence and the Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) on the ESCoT and established tests of social cognition. Additionally, we investigated the convergent validity of the ESCoT based on traditional social cognition measures. The ESCoT was administered alongside Reading the Mind in Films (RMF), Reading the Mind in Eyes (RME), Judgement of Preference and Social Norm Questionnaire to 91 participants (30 aged 18 – 35 years, 30 aged 45 – 60 years and 31 aged 65 – 85 years). Poorer performance on the cognitive and affective ToM ESCoT subtests were predicted by increasing age. The affective ToM ESCoT subtest and RMF were predicted by gender, where being female predicted better performance. Unlike the ESCoT, better performance on the RMF was predicted by higher verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning abilities, while better performance on the RME was predicted by higher verbal comprehension scores. Lower scores on inter-and intrapersonal understanding of social norms were both predicted by the presence of more autism-like traits while poorer interpersonal understanding of social norms performance was predicted by increasing age. These findings show that the ESCoT is a useful measure of social cognition and, unlike established tests of social cognition, performance is not predicted by measures of verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning. This is particularly valuable to obtain an accurate assessment of the influence of age on our social cognitive abilities.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0195818
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • social cognition
  • elderly
  • cognition
  • reasoning
  • aging
  • regression analysis
  • behavior
  • theory of mind


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