Theory of mind (TOM) is an essential psychological process that helps humans function in society. Zhou et al. (2019) conducted an experimental study where they investigated how TOM, inhibitory control, and healthy aging were related. In the experiment, six groups of participants of six age groups completed tasks for cognitive TOM, emotional TOM, two tasks for inhibitory control, and one control task for general intellectual ability. The results showed a high correlation between aging, cognitive TOM, and inhibitory control. Emotional TOM was also decreasing with age but to a lesser extent.
The critical points of interest are revealing the processes happening to TOM in the course of aging, and investigating if they are related to other cognitive functions, namely, to executive functions. This study focuses on the latest processes of human development and demonstrates how the psychological process changed. Moreover, except for the task performance, the study analysis takes into account the living conditions and education of the participants. Thus, it covers the topics of psychological development and the interaction of different aspects of aging.
I was intrigued to read about TOM in elderly adults because, in my experience, most of the articles on TOM consider childhood or infancy with the focus on how TOM emerges. I think that conclusions are generally reasonable. However, there are some questionable aspects, such as why the authors think it is inhibitory control, which influences TOM, and not vice versa. The research design was correlational, and the results could not indicate any causality. Moreover, it is unclear why the authors chose those particular tests, among others, that they could use to test the functions. Therefore, while the study pays attention to a rare topic, it seems to have some methodological drawbacks.
Zhou, Wei, et al. “The Mechanism of Inhibitory Control on the Development of Theory of Mind in Old Age—Based on the Two-Component Model of Psychological Theory.” Aging & Mental Health, vol. 0, no. 0, Routledge. 2019, pp. 1–9.