Why are groups good for us? Examining mechanisms that enhance cognitive health in aging

Abstract

Cognitive decline is a significant threat to successful aging, however there is research to suggest that social groups can play a protective role. A study conducted by Jones and Jetten (2010) highlighted that multiple group membership salience could increase physical resilience. This study, using the same paradigm, wanted to extend on these results to investigate whether multiple group memberships would also increase cognitive resilience. It was predicted that those primed with five social groups would score higher on a memory cognitive test than those primed with three and one social group. However, how social groups actually generate positive health benefits is still largely contested. A second research question wanted to address this issue by exploring whether social connectedness or stress reduction mediated the relationship between social group membership and cognitive function. Sixty participants (M=74.28, SD=7.37), were tested on a battery of cognitive tests. Memory was used as the desired outcome in this research, as it is prone to decline in successful aging. Only when important social groups were considered, did we find a difference in the direction expected, and multiple groups buffered cognitive resilience. In the investigation of mechanism, only social connectedness significantly mediated the relationship, however not in the direction expected. Although there was a significant, and positive, relationship between number of social groups and performance on a memory test, the mediator social connectedness displayed negative correlations between the social group condition and the memory outcome. For this reason it was suggested that the social groups may actually be conflicting with one another when multiple groups are considered. However, the results suggest that there is a positive relationship between social group membership and cognitive resilience, more work will need to go into understanding how this relationship is mediated

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University of Queensland eSpace

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Last time updated on 04/08/2016

This paper was published in University of Queensland eSpace.

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