Large-scale study examines how social thinking changes over time

Tue, Sep 30, 2014

Metro Vancouver, B.C. – That our social thinking may change as we age is generally unsurprising.

But to what extent do these abilities – our judgment, decision-making and perspective-taking – change over the course of our lifetime?

Dr. Daniel Bernstein, Canada Research Chair in Lifespan Cognition, heads the Lifespan Cognition Lab at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). Bernstein and his students are conducting a large-scale study to evaluate, from preschool to old age, the way in which we relate to and learn from others.

The goal of the project is to develop well-needed tools and theory to both explain and address how social thinking changes over time. The lab is currently conducting 60-90-minute studies with people of all ages.

“Perspective-taking is a hallmark of human social thinking and it allows us to navigate our social world. Although it is present throughout life, few studies explore this skill across the lifespan. Further, few studies explore the mechanisms underlying this social skill,” explained Dr. Bernstein.

“Our own knowledge and feelings, though, often limit our ability to take another’s perspective, “read” another’s mind or know how another feels. We are interested in determining how people learn to use perspective-taking to communicate thoughts, desires and intentions.”

The large-scale study includes a variety of computer, paper and pencil, and hands-on activities, all designed to be engaging and fun for participants.

Dr. Bernstein says it will also serve to help researchers, educators and policymakers understand the perspective-taking process across development. Currently, few tools exist that permit researchers to study social thinking across the lifespan. Developing them will allow other researchers to create tools to assess, understand and help people navigate their social world.

“Social thinking allows us to interact with and learn from different people in different environments. It is very valuable and important for us to know how social thinking changes as we age,” said Dr. Bernstein.

For more information, or to participate in the study, visit:

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Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist, KPU
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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