Making judgments about other people: impression formation and attributional processing in older adults

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Abby Heckman Coats
Fredda Blanchard-Fields


Older adults face changing relationships with family members and friends with aging. Social cognition researchers investigate how individuals think about these social situations. The results of this research suggest that older adults are effective at accurately judging social partners when they are motivated to do so and can apply their accumulated knowledge to the situation. However, when cognitive resources are required in social situations, older adults may not perform as well as young adults. We review evidence supporting the importance of cognition, motivation, and knowledge for older adults’ impression formation and attributional reasoning. This research is important because it can lead to interventions to help older adults avoid scams and improve their interpersonal relationships.


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