The Influence of Self-Perceptions of Aging on Older Adults' Cognition and Behavior
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How old one feels, one’s subjective age, has been shown to predict important psychological and health outcomes. However, few studies have demonstrated a relationship between subjective age and cognitive performance. The first aim of this paper was to determine if subjective age is correlated with cognition. Study 1A investigated whether baseline subjective age was correlated with cognitive performance in several laboratory tests. The results found preliminary evidence that subjective age was correlated with several cognitive measures. Bootstrapping revealed several significant correlations between subjective age and cognitive performance. Study 1B investigated whether this effect could be replicated in an online sample. Preliminary results suggested baseline subjective age was related to cognitive performance. Bootstrapping revealed that subjective age was correlated with several cognitive measures, as well as confidence ratings. Study 1C further demonstrated that baseline subjective age was correlated with cognitive performance using data from a nationwide longitudinal study. The second aim of paper was to determine if manipulating subjective age would also affect cognition. Study 2 manipulated subjective age for a group of participants by giving them a memory test; a control group received a vocabulary test. There was evidence that manipulating subjective age affected some cognitive performance, such that higher subjective age was correlated with lower performance. Furthermore, participants who felt older were less confident in their performance for some unfamiliar tasks. The third aim of this paper was to determine whether subjective age could also be decreased, and if so, would this lead to an improvement for cognitive performance. In Study 3, half of the participants received positive feedback following a memory test, while the other half received no feedback after the test. The results suggest that positive feedback may lead to a lower subjective age, although this did not lead to higher cognitive performance. In conclusion, these studies provided strong evidence that subjective age is correlated with cognitive performance. Furthermore, the results suggest that manipulating subjective age can also affect cognitive performance and subjective confidence. Finally, the results support the theory that subjective age is a malleable variable which can be increased or decreased, depending on contextual factors.
Hughes, Matthew Lane (2014). The Influence of Self-Perceptions of Aging on Older Adults' Cognition and Behavior. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from