Friday, September 4, 2009

Gender differences in older adults’ everyday cognitive collaboration

Jennifer A. Margrett

Michael Marsiske

Collaborative cognition research has demonstrated that social partners can positively impact individuals’ thinking and problem-solving performance. Research in adulthood and aging has been less clear about dyadic effects, such as partner gender, on collaborative cognition. The current study examined the objective and subjective experiences of older men and women’s collaboration on three everyday problems. Tasks included comprehension of everyday printed materials, a social dilemma task, and an errand-planning task. A sample of 98 older married couples (N = 196) worked both collaboratively and individually with either their spouse (N = 52 dyads) or a stranger of the other gender (N = 46 dyads). Analyses conducted using the actor-partner methodology (e.g., Gonzalez & Griffin, 1997; Kenny, 1996) suggest that men tended to be more influential during dyadic problem solving, particularly on more ambiguous tasks. Subjective appraisals of collaboration also varied between male and female partners, with familiarity of partner playing a large role in expectations of collaboration. Most notably, women assigned to work with an unfamiliar male partner tended to rate their satisfaction with collaborative teamwork less positively. Both self and partner-rated subjective appraisals, particularly expectations of competitiveness, were predictive of collaborative performance.