Repository logo

Does our cognitive empathy diminish with age? The moderator role of educational level.

Published version



Change log


Gutiérrez-Cobo, María José 
Cabello, Rosario 
Megías-Robles, Alberto 
Gómez-Leal, Raquel 


INTRODUCTION: The literature has demonstrated how the relationship between cognitive or emotional intelligence and age exhibits an inverted-U-shape and that this decline can be mitigated by an individual's cognitive reserve (CR). Rather less is known, however, about the pattern of changes in cognitive empathy or the ability to recognize the thoughts or feelings of others. OBJECTIVES: The aim of the present study was firstly to analyze the effect of age, gender, and CR (measured through educational level), on the capacity to show cognitive empathy. Secondly, we aimed to evaluate what type of relationship-linear or quadratic-exists between age and cognitive empathy. We finally aimed to analyze the moderator role of educational level on the relationship between age and cognitive empathy. PARTICIPANTS: Totally, 902 Spanish adults aged between 18 and 79 years (M = 43.53, SD = 11.86; 57% women). MEASUREMENTS: Participants were asked to indicate their educational level (primary, high school, or college education) and their cognitive empathy was assessed using the Eyes test. RESULTS: Women scored higher than men on cognitive empathy. Participants with a college education had higher scores on cognitive empathy than those with a lower educational level. Additionally, the relationship between age and cognitive empathy fit an inverted-U-shaped curve, consistent with the data found for cognitive and emotional intelligence. Finally, the age-related decrease in cognitive empathy appeared to be mitigated by a higher educational level, but only in those individuals aged 35 years and above. Limitations and clinical implications are discussed.



Eyes test, age, cognitive empathy, educational level, theory of mind, Male, Humans, Female, Aged, Empathy, Emotions, Emotional Intelligence, Educational Status, Cognitive Reserve

Journal Title

Int Psychogeriatr

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title


Cambridge University Press (CUP)