LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• What is the social facilitation of cognitive functioning?

• What is collaborative cognition, and does it facilitate memory in older adults?

• How does the social context influence memory performance in older adults?

B

randon and Stephanie’s granddaughter asked them what happened when they first met. Stephanie recalled that they met at a social gathering for World War II soldiers but couldn’t remember the name of the person who introduced them. She could only describe him as tall and dark-haired. However, this cued Brandon; he remembered the man’s name was Tucker. This back-and-forth remembering continued until, to their own amazement, they had successfully recon­structed the whole gathering. Their granddaughter was delighted and complimented them on their good memories.

When we typically think about the memories of older adults, we don’t usually think of these kinds of successes. Brandon and Stephanie’s reliance on each other to remember a past event shows how
our social cognitive processes serve adaptive func­tions. In fact, there is a growing interest in how the social context can compensate for memory loss and facilitate memory performance. In this section, we will examine two approaches to this issue: collaborative cognition and facilitative social contexts.

Similar to practical intelligence, wisdom, and everyday problem solving discussed in Chapter 7, the social cognition perspective offers us an enriched understanding of social competence in older adult­hood. We are interested in how changes in social cognitive functioning both reflect the changing life contexts of the individual and affect adaptation to these changing contexts. In the previous sec­tions, we have primarily focused on how develop­mental changes in representations of self or other (such as social beliefs and self-beliefs) influence social cognitive processes such as making attribu – tional judgments. In this section we focus on social cognition as it relates to the dynamic interplay between self, others, and context. For example, a less researched, but extremely important, domain of social cognition and aging is how the particular types of social settings in which we communicate with others influence our cognitive processing. This relates to a different aspect of social cognition and

Older adults tend to use compensatory strategies for failing memories by jointly remembering events.

aging research: the social facilitation of cognitive functioning.