8.1 SOCIAL JUDGMENT PROCESSES

Impression Formation • Knowledge Accessibility and Social Judgments ‘ Explanation for Age Differences in Social Judgments

8.2 SOCIAL KNOWLEDGE STRUCTURES AND BELIEFS

Understanding Age Differences in Social Beliefs

8.3 SOCIAL JUDGMENTS AND CAUSAL ATTRIBUTIONS

Attributional Biases • How Do We Know? Age Differences in Adjusting Social Judgments

8.4 MOTIVATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSING GOALS

Personal Goals • Emotion as a Processing Goal • Cognitive Style as a Processing Goal

8.5 STEREOTYPES AND AGING

Content of Stereotypes • Age Stereotypes and Perceived Competence • Activation of Stereotypes • Stereotype Threat • Current Controversies: Are Stereotypes of Aging Associated with Lower Cognitive Performance?

8.6 PERSONAL CONTROL

Multidimensionality of Personal Control • Control Strategies • Discovering Development: How Much Control Do You Have over Your Cognitive Functioning? • Some Criticisms Regarding Primary Control

8.7 SOCIAL SITUATIONS AND SOCIAL CO I

Collaborative Cognition • Social Context of Memory

SOCIAL POLICY IMPLICATIONS

Summary • Review Questions • Integrating Concepts in Development • Key Terms • Resources

WHEN A PROMINENT DEMOCRAT MARRIES A PROMINENT REPUBLICAN, AS

occurred when the top consultants to the competing presidential candidates of 1992 tied the knot, people try to make sense of it. Many thought the marriage of Mary Matalin (Bush’s political director) and James Carville (Clinton’s campaign strategist) was doomed because they were political "opposites.” In contrast, the newlyweds saw their passion for politics as a core similarity.

The public speculation about the Matalin-Carville relationship illustrates how people try to make sense of other people’s behavior. As we will see, this is the essence of social cognitive functioning. In this chapter, we will consider how the social context is involved in our cognitive processes. We will take a closer look at how our basic cognitive abilities influence our social cognitive processing. We will examine how our past experiences and beliefs influence our social judgment processes such as how people make impressions

and explain behavior (causal attributions). Finally we will examine four aspects of social cognition: the role of motivational and emotion as processing goals, how stereotypes affect how we judge older adults’ behavior, how much personal control people feel they have, and how cognition is affected when we are communicating to others in a social context.

But first we need to highlight the importance of social-contextual aspects of cognition.

As discussed in Chapter 6, traditional cognitive aging research has focused on the basic architecture of human information processing and how it is tied to physiological decline.

In pursuit of this goal, painstaking efforts have been made to try to create tasks and

stimuli that are not familiar to the participants in the study and devoid of social implications. Although

these traditional approaches to cognition and aging are important to identify

basic cognitive processes and how they change over time, they do not tell us how social knowledge

(e. g., beliefs about aging), social goals (e. g., what is important for "me” to remember in this task), and

emotion affect cognition.

A new wave of social cognition research has raised some important issues for aging research such as how our life experiences and emotions, as well as changes in our pragmatic knowledge, social expertise, and values, influence how we think and remember. To address these issues, we must consider both the basic cognitive architecture of the aging adult (identified in Chapter 6) and the functional architecture of

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everyday cognition in a social context (discussed in Chapter 7). Even if certain basic cognitive mechanisms decline (such as episodic memory recall or speed of processing), older adults still have the social knowledge and skills that allow them to function effectively. In fact, by taking into consideration social and emotional factors, researchers find that older adults’ cognitive functioning often remains intact and may even improve across the life span (Blanchard-Fields, Horhota, & Mienaltowski, 2008; Carstensen & Mikels, 2005; Hess, 2005). This approach reinforces the perspective of this textbook that views effective development as a lifelong adaptive process.