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Executive functions do not underlie performance on the Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT) in healthy younger and older adults

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    Rights statement: This article has been published in a revised form in Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society [http://dx.doi.org/XXX]. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © copyright holder.

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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Nov 2019


Objective: Current measures of social cognition have shown inconsistent findings regarding the effects of executive function (EF) abilities on social cognitive performance in older adults. The psychometric properties of the different social cognition tests may underlie the disproportional overlap with EF abilities. Our aim was to examine the relationship between social cognition and EF abilities using the Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT; Baksh et al., 2018), a test assessing four different aspects of social cognition: cognitive theory of mind (ToM), affective ToM, interpersonal understanding of social norms and intrapersonal understanding of social norms.

We administered the ESCoT, EF measures of inhibition, set-shifting, updating, and a measure of processing speed, to 30 younger and 31 older adults. We also administered the Visual Perspective Tasking task (VPT) as a ToM test thought to be reliant on EF abilities. 
Results: Better performance on cognitive ToM was significantly associated with younger age and slower processing speed. Better performance on affective ToM and ESCoT total score was associated with being younger and female. Better performance on interpersonal understanding of social norms was associated with being younger. EF abilities did not predict performance on any subtest of the ESCoT. In contrast, on the VPT, the relationship between age group and performance was fully or partially mediated by processing speed and updating. 
Conclusions: These findings show that the ESCoT is a valuable measure of different aspects of social cognition and, unlike many established tests of social cognition, performance is not predicted by EF abilities.

    Research areas

  • Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT), executive functions, aging, Theory of Mind, understanding of social norms

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