Full Text PA-97-065
 
SOCIAL COGNITION AND AGING
 
NIH GUIDE, Volume 26, Number 19, June 6, 1997
 
PA NUMBER:  PA-97-065
 
P.T. 34

Keywords: 
  Aging/Gerontology 
  Cognitive Development/Process 

 
National Institute on Aging
 
PURPOSE
 
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) invites qualified researchers
to submit research and training grant applications on social
cognition and aging. The social cognitive paradigm concerns the ways
in which mental representations of social events, societal and
cultural norms and personal characteristics influence behavior,
reasoning, emotion and motivation. Specifically, the approach
addresses attributions, self and social goals, mental representations
of the self and others, and the role of social facilitation in
decision-making, memory and judgment. Research suggests that complex
cognitive functioning-involved in coping, everyday problem-solving
and decision-making in health and social domains-depends not only on
basic cognitive mechanisms, but also on socially-derived content and
organization of existing knowledge structures as well as on
socially-derived emotional and motivational influences on
performance.
 
The NIA encourages the application of social-cognitive approaches to
research on middle-aged and older people. The ultimate goal of such
research is to improve health maintenance and promotion, coping with
age-related losses, social relationships, and adaptive functioning in
daily life as people age. This announcement is coordinated with the
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which supports a range of
topics in social cognition, and with the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development (NICHD), which supports applications
about the normative cognitive, social, motivational and affective
development of children from infancy through adolescence. (See
INQUIRIES, below)
 
HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000
 
The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health
promotion and disease prevention objectives of Healthy People 2000, a
PHS-led national activity for setting priority areas. This PA is
related to the priority area of Diabetes and Chronic Disabling
Conditions. Potential applicants may obtain a copy of Healthy People
2000 (Full Report: Stock No. 017-001-00474-0 or Summary Report: Stock
No. 017-001-00473-1) through the Superintendent of Documents,
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325 (telephone
202-512-1800).
 
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
 
Applications may be submitted by foreign and domestic for-profit and
non-profit organizations, public and private, such as universities,
colleges, hospitals, laboratories, units of state and local
governments, and eligible agencies of the Federal government. Foreign
institutions are not eligible for the First Independent Research
Support and Transition (FIRST) awards (R29). Racial/ethnic minority
individuals, women, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to
apply as principal investigators.
 
MECHANISM OF SUPPORT
 
The mechanisms of support will be the investigator-initiated research
project grant (R01) and FIRST award (R29). Also see "Pilot Grants in
the Behavioral and Social Science of Aging," NIH Guide to Grants and
Contracts, Volume 26, Number 5, February 14, 1997.
 
RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
 
The NIA seeks grant applications for the study of social cognition
and aging that address one or more of the following: (A) age-related
changes in knowledge structures/schemas, self representation, and
defense mechanisms; (B) the effects of context (e.g., cultural,
cohort, social situational) on cognitive performance and social
reasoning as people age; (C) the interaction among aging, social
cognition, emotion, and motivation; and (D) the effect of age-related
changes in basic cognitive skills on social judgments.The following
examples suggest areas that are appropriate for submissions. They are
intended to be illustrative rather than exhaustive.
 
A. AGE-RELATED CHANGES IN KNOWLEDGE STRUCTURES OR SCHEMAS
 
A substantial literature exists on mental representations about the
self and others, social scripts, stereotypes, implicit theories and
the role of beliefs in health and illness. These knowledge structures
play an important role in the interpretation of events, organization
of new information, goal setting and motivation to act in specific
ways. To date, however, relatively little empirical evidence exists
on possible age differences in the elaboration, consistency and
consequences of knowledge structures, or on the ways in which these
knowledge structures influence thought and action as people age.
 
1. How do knowledge structures change as a function of development
and changing environments in adulthood and aging? Are some types of
social knowledge more likely to change than others? Do individuals'
belief in a "just world" and needs for consistency change with aging?
 
2. How do individual differences in knowledge and beliefs facilitate
adaptation in old age? How do age-related differences influence the
interpretation of events, the motivation to engage in cognitive
performance or specific behaviors (e.g., health-medical decisions)?
How do social cognitive processes and schemas affect older people's
conceptions of specific diseases? How do they affect health-related
behaviors such as medication use? What methods aid in the
restructuring of beliefs to encourage adaptive health practices as
people age?
 
3. How do older adults mentally represent social problems (e.g., in
terms of causal attributions, problem interpretation and importance)?
What effects do such representations have on everyday problem
solving?
 
4. How do stereotypic beliefs about aging and the elderly influence
conceptions of self and others? Do individuals' stereotypes change
with their own aging and, if so, with what effects?
 
5. How do social cognitive processes affect adaptation to cognitive
and health-related changes with age without showing deteriorated
performance in everyday functioning? Similarly, how do older people
maintain a sense of well-being when age is associated with numerous
threats to the self?
 
6. Do self-efficacy beliefs change with aging? Which age-related
processes or conditions promote stability or change? How are
self-efficacy beliefs accessed and modified? What are the mechanisms
by which self-efficacy, once activated, influences behavior and do
these mechanisms change with aging? (Viz. Sense of Control throughout
the Life Course, NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts, vol. 18, no. 13,
April 1, 1989.)
 
B. CONTEXTUAL AND FUNCTIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON SOCIAL COGNITION AND
AGING
 
Multiple layers of social context-from the immediate environment of
the individual to the larger sociocultural context-influence
development and aging. In order to understand the individual in
context, both the properties of context and the nature of the
individual's representations of those properties need to be
considered, especially as they both may change with aging. For
example, how do age-related sociocultural and socio-contextual
influences on self-representations and knowledge structures affect
memory, decision-making, cognition, problem-solving and coping?
 
1. How do perceptions of problems, self-schemas, and defense
mechanisms influence and are influenced by social interactions?
Although most people discuss concerns with other people prior to
making decisions and resolving problems, a meager amount of research
examines decision-making as a social process in the middle and later
years.
 
2. How does the social environment influence cognitive processing in
old age? How do interactions with social partners enhance memory,
e.g., collaborative memory? How do older individuals access and use
information under particular kinds of situational/environmental
demands?
 
3. Do causal attributions of social interactions change with age? Are
these attributions predictive of changes in social behavior? Are
there age differences in person perception?
 
4. Given that cultural transmission of sociocultural information to
younger adults has been espoused as a prototypic cognitive task for
older adults, how do social cognitive processes operate in the
context of group processes, dyadic interactions, etc.? How do
mismatches in social knowledge affect communication among older
adults and health professionals, caregivers, financial advisers,
etc.?
 
5. As people grow older, how do particular social roles and
situations such as gender, birth cohort, culture, socio-economic
status, ethnicity, etc. influence social knowledge?
 
C. AGING, SOCIAL COGNITION, EMOTION, AND MOTIVATION
 
Emotional states importantly influence cognitive performance, and
social cognitive appraisals influence emotional experience.
Similarly, important reciprocal relations exist between motivation
and social cognition. On the one hand, various motivational factors
may bias the (social) cognitive process, affecting its extent, depth
and directionality. On the other hand, goals (fundamental
motivational constructs) have important social cognitive components.
They are formed, activated, and applied in the same way as are other
cognitive structures. These issues could be relevant to aging.
Although complex models illuminating these issues are emerging in the
social and behavioral sciences, application to research of aging is
infrequent.
 
1. What societal beliefs about emotion influence emotional experience
in old age? To what extent do current cohorts of older adults
anticipate negative experience in emotional arenas? What is the
impact of age-related beliefs about emotion on social attitudes and
behaviors?
 
2. Is the relationship between mood and memory altered with age? Does
the relationship between arousal and performance vary across the
adult life span? What is the role of social cognitive processes in
these relationships?
 
3. Some evidence suggests that information processing becomes
increasingly "emotional" with age. If so, how do such changes improve
or impede social reasoning about, for example, medical
decision-making or advice giving, interpersonal relationships?
 
4. What age-related qualitative and/or adaptive changes take place in
emotional development and regulation? In contrast to the cognitive
representation of emotions, what is the phenomenological experience
of emotion (the current level of functioning of emotional experience)
of the older adult? How do social cognitive processes affect this
experience?
 
5. Does the lowering of energy resources presumably occurring during
aging affect the individual's nondirectional cognitive motivations?
For instance, is aging positively correlated with a rising need for
cognitive closure? If so, is aging characterized by stereotyping,
insufficient adjustment of initial opinions in light of new
information, a preference for similarly minded others, etc?
 
6. Does aging affect the configuration of individual directional
motivations? For instance, do achievement, or social dominance and
power motivations decline, while affiliation motivation, and health
concerns increase with aging? What effects might these have on
various information-processing biases, such as attribution of
(positive or negative) achievement vs. health-related outcomes?
 
7. How do goals and goal-setting processes differ, if at all, as
people age? Do people's goals change qualitatively and/or
quantitatively as they become older (e.g., more short term, more
specific and concrete, less self-focused)? To what extent are the
characteristics of goals in old age mediated by meta-cognitions
about, e.g. the amount of time
left for goal accomplishment?
 
8. How are age-related changes in motivation related to social
preferences and social goals? What is the role of social motivation
in social network composition? Are there motivated changes in
qualitative aspects of social relationships? How are age-related
changes in motivation related to qualitative differences in
processing social information (e.g., interpretation of a problem
situation)?
 
D. NORMAL CHANGES IN BASIC COGNITIVE SKILLS AND SOCIAL COGNITION
 
Many models of social cognition emphasize the importance of basic
information processing skills in the construction of representations
about social events. For example, the formation of impressions of
others depends on the activation of appropriate categorical
knowledge, the ability to attend to relevant aspects of behavior, the
efficiency with which attributes are encoded and the integration of
specific aspects of behavioral information into a coherent
representation. Since the nature of representations in memory has a
major impact on the types of decisions and judgments people make in
reference to specific others or social events, an important issue
concerns the extent to which normal (nonpathological) aging-related
changes in basic cognitive skills influence the representation of
social information and its subsequent use.
 
1. How is information about specific events represented in memory as
people age? Do age-related changes in processing skills influence the
type of information represented in memory and, subsequently, the
types of decisions and judgments that are made about the event?
 
2. Are there age-related changes in the ability to access and/or use
specific types of social information?
 
3. Do age-related changes in memory skills have an impact on the
ability to acquire new or alter existing social knowledge?
 
SELECTED BACKGROUND READINGS
 
Abeles, R. P. (1987). Life-span perspectives and social psychology.
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
 
Bdckman, L. & Dixon, R. (1992). Psychological compensation: A
theoretical framework. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 259-283.
 
Baltes, M. & Carstensen, L. L. (1996). The process of successful
ageing. Ageing and Society., 16, 397-422
 
Baltes, P. B. (1993). The aging mind: Potentials and limits.
Gerontologist, 33, 580-594.
 
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A
social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
 
Blanchard-Fields, F. & Abeles, R. (1996). Social cognition and aging.
In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of
aging (pp. 150- 161). San Diego: Academic Press.
 
Blanchard-Fields, F. (1996). Social cognitive development in
adulthood and aging. In F. Blanchard-Fields and T. M. Hess (Eds.),
Perspectives on cognitive change in adulthood and aging (pp.454-487).
New York: McGraw-Hill.
 
Carstensen, L. L. (1995). Evidence for a life-span theory of
socioemotional selectivity. Current Directions in Psychological
Science, 4, 151-156.
 
Cornelius, S. W. (1990). Aging and everyday cognitive abilities. In
T. M. Hess (Ed.), Aging and cognition: Knowledge organization
utilization (pp. 411-460). Amsterdam: North-Holland.
 
Fiske, S. T. (1993). Social Cognition and social perception. Annual
Review of Psychology, 44, 155-194.
 
Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition. New York:
McGraw-Hill.
 
Hess, T. M. (1994). Social cognition in adulthood: Aging-related
changes in knowledge and processing mechanisms. Developmental Review,
14, 373-412.
 
Labouvie-Vief, G. (1992) A neo-Piagetian perspective on adult
cognitive development. In R. J. Sternberg & C.A. Berg (Eds.),
Intellectual development (pp. 239-252). New York: Cambridge
University Press.
 
Markus, H., & Herzog, A. R. (1991). The role of the self-concept in
aging. In K. W. Schaie (Ed.), Annual review of gerontology and
geriatrics (Vol. 11). New York: Springer.
 
Sternberg, R. (1990). Wisdom: Its nature, origins, and development.
N. Y.: Cambridge University Press.
 
Wyer, R. S., Jr., & Srull, T. K. (1989). Memory and cognition in its
social context. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
 
INCLUSION OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN
SUBJECTS
 
It is the policy of the NIH that women and members of minority groups
and their subpopulations must be included in all NIH supported
biomedical and behavioral research projects involving human subjects,
unless a clear and compelling rationale and justification is provided
that inclusion is inappropriate with respect to the health of the
subjects or the purpose of the research. This policy results from the
NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (Section 492B of Public Law 103-43).
 
All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should
read the "NIH Guidelines for Inclusion of Women and Minorities as
Subjects in Clinical Research," which have been published in the
Federal Register, March 9, 1994 (FR 59 14508-14513) and reprinted in
the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Volume 23, Number 11, March
18, 1994.
 
Investigators may obtain copies of the policy from the program staff
listed under INQUIRIES or from the Internet at
http://www.med.nyu.edu. Program staff may also provide additional
relevant information concerning the policy.
 
APPLICATION PROCEDURES
 
Applications are to be submitted on the grant application form PHS
398 (rev. 5/95) and will be accepted at the standard application
deadlines as indicated in the application kit.  Applications kits are
available at most institutional offices of sponsored research and may
be obtained from the Office of Extramural Outreach and Information
Resources, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC
7910, Bethesda, MD 20892-7910, telephone 301-435-0714, email:
ASKNIH@odrockm1.od.nih.gov.
 
The title and number of the program announcement must be typed in
line 2 on the face page of the application. Applications for the
FIRST award (R29) must include at least three sealed letters of
reference attached to the face page of the original application.
FIRST award (R29) applications submitted without the required number
of reference letters will be considered incomplete and will be
returned without review. FIRST Award applicants are reminded that
they must follow "just-in-time" procedures (NIH Guide to Grants and
Contracts, Volume 25, March 29, 1996).
 
The completed original application and five legible copies must
delivered to:
 
DIVISION OF RESEARCH GRANTS
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
6701 ROCKLEDGE DRIVE, SUITE 1040, MSC 7710
BETHESDA, MD 20892-7710
BETHESDA, MD 20817 (For Express/Courier Service)
 
Receipt dates for new Research Project Grants and FIRST Awards
applications are February 1, June 1, and October 1 of each year.
 
REVIEW CONSIDERATIONS
 
Applications will be assigned on the basis of established Public
Health Service referral guidelines. Applications will be reviewed for
scientific and technical merit by study sections of the Division of
Research Grants, NIH, in accordance with the standard NIH peer review
procedures. As part of the initial merit review, all applications
will receive a written critique and undergo a process in which only
those applications deemed to have the highest scientific merit,
generally the top half of applications under review, will be
discussed, assigned a priority score, and receive a second level
review by the appropriate national advisory council or board.
 
REVIEW CRITERIA
 
* Scientific, technical, or medical significance and originality of
proposed research;
 
* Appropriateness and adequacy of the experimental approach and
methodology proposed to carry out the research;
 
* Qualifications and research experience of the Principal
Investigator and staff, particularly, but not exclusively, in the
area of the proposed research;
 
* Availability of the resources necessary to perform the research;
 
* Appropriateness of the proposed budget and duration in relation to
the proposed research;
 
* Adequacy of plans to include both genders and minorities and their
subgroups as appropriate for the scientific goals of the research.
Plans for the recruitment and retention of subjects will also be
evaluated.
 
* The initial review group will also examine the provisions for the
protection of human and animal subjects, the safety of the research
environment.
 
AWARD CRITERIA
 
Applications will compete for available funds with all other approved
applications assigned to that Institute/Center (IC). The following
will be considered in making funding decisions: Quality of the
proposed project as determined by peer review, availability of funds,
and program priority.
 
INQUIRIES
 
Inquiries are encouraged. The opportunity to clarify any issues or
questions from potential applicants is welcome.
 
Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues to:
 
Jared Jobe, Ph.D.
Behavioral and Social Research
National Institute on Aging
7201 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 533 MSC 9205
Bethesda, MD  20892-9205
Telephone:  (301) 496-3137
FAX:  (301) 402-0051
Email:  Jared_Jobe@nih.gov
 
Direct inquiries regarding fiscal matters to:
 
Mr. Joseph Ellis
Grants and Contracts Management Office
National Institute on Aging
7201 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 2N212, MSC 9205
Bethesda, MD  20892-9205
Telephone:  (301) 496-1472
FAX:  (301) 402-3672
Email:  Joseph_Ellis@nih.gov
 
The NIMH supports research on a range of topics in social cognition
(e.g., attitude accessibility, persuasion, stereotyping, self and
social identity, stigma about mental disorders) across the life-span
in normative, at-risk, and mentally ill populations. Inquiries about
NIMH's sponsorship of these activities may be directed to:
 
Della M. Hann, Ph.D.
Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Sciences
National Institute of Mental Health
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 11C-16
Rockville, MD  20857
Telephone:  (301) 443-3942
FAX:  (301) 443-4822
Email:  dhann@nih.gov
 
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
is interested in the topics of this Program Announcement (PA) as they
pertain to children's and adolescents' development. More
specifically, NICHD is interested in supporting meritorious
applications in the following areas: (a) Normative age-related
changes in knowledge structure; (b) Contextual and functional
perspectives on the normative development of social cognition; (c)
The interaction of social cognition, emotion and motivation during
childhood and adolescence and (d) Developmental changes in cognitive
skills and social cognition.  Inquiries about NICHD's support for
research in social cognition may be directed to:
 
Sarah L. Friedman, Ph.D.
Center for Research for Mothers and Children,
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Building 61E, Room 4B05
Bethesda, MD  20892
Telephone:  (301) 496-9849
FAX:  (301) 480-7773
Email:  FriedmaS@HD01.NICHD.NIH.GOV
 
AUTHORITY AND REGULATIONS
 
This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic
Assistance No. 93.866, Aging Research, No. 93.399, Cancer Control
Research, No. 93.393, Cancer Cause and Prevention Research, No.
93.396, Cancer Biology Research, No 93.399, Cancer Treatment
Research, No. 93.361, Nursing Research, and No. 93.242, Mental Health
Research. Awards are made under authorization of the Public Health
Service Act, Title IV, Part A (Public Law 78-410, as amended by
Public Law 99-158, 42 USC 241 and 285) and administered under PHS
grants policies and Federal Regulations 42 CFR 52 and 45 CFR Part 74.
This program is not subject to the intergovernmental review
requirements of Executive Order 12372 or Health Systems Agency
review.
 
The PHS strongly encourages all grant and contract recipients to
provide a smoke-free workplace and promote the non-use of all tobacco
products. In addition, Public Law 103-227, the Pro-Children Act of
1994, prohibits smoking in certain facilities (or in some cases, any
portion of a facility) in which regular or routine education,
library, day care, health care or early childhood development
services are provided to children. This is consistent with the PHS
mission to protect and advance the physical and mental health of the
American people.
 
.

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