Social priming improves cognitive control in elderly adults - Evidence from the Simon task

Daniela Aisenberg, Noga Cohen, Hadas Pick, Iris Tressman, Michal Rappaport, Tal Shenberg, Avishai Henik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined whether social priming of cognitive states affects the inhibitory process in elderly adults, as aging is related to deficits in inhibitory control. Forty-eight elderly adults and 45 young adults were assigned to three groups and performed a cognitive control task (Simon task), which was followed by 3 different manipulations of social priming (i.e., thinking about an 82 year-old person): 1) negative - characterized by poor cognitive abilities, 2) neutral - characterized by acts irrelevant to cognitive abilities, and 3) positive-excellent cognitive abilities. After the manipulation, the Simon task was performed again. Results showed improvement in cognitive control effects in seniors after the positive manipulation, indicated by a significant decrease in the magnitude of the Simon and interference effects, but not after the neutral and negative manipulations. Furthermore, a healthy pattern of sequential effect (Gratton) that was absent before the manipulation in all 3 groups appeared after the positive manipulation. Namely, the Simon effect was only present after congruent but not after incongruent trials for the positive manipulation group. No influence of manipulations was found in young adults. These meaningful results were replicated in a second experiment and suggest a decrease in conflict interference resulting from positive cognitive state priming. Our study provides evidence that an implicit social concept of a positive cognitive condition in old age can affect the control process of the elderly and improve cognitive abilities.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0117151
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Jan 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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