That’s Inappropriate! Social Norms in an Older Population-based Cohort

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Social cognition is not routinely assessed in older adults. We report population-based normative data on the Social Norms Questionnaire (SNQ22) which asks individuals about the appropriateness of specific behaviors in hypothetical scenarios, errors being related either to breaking with norms or to over-adhering to perceived norms. Total SNQ scores represent the number of correct responses while subscale scores are error totals.


We administered the SNQ22 to 744 adults aged 65+ within a population-based study, and examined the distribution of scores by demographics, other cognitive measures, and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR).


Most participants performed well with few errors. Women and young-old individuals performed significantly better than men and older individuals on total score and over-adherence; women had fewer break-norms errors than men. No race or education effects were observed. Worse (higher) total scores and (lower) over-adherence errors were inversely associated with literacy, CDR, Mini-Mental State Examination, attention, memory, language, executive, and visuospatial domains. Break-norms errors were rare and not associated with any of the above.


In population-based normative data on the SNQ22. age and sex influenced total score and over-adherence errors, which showed the expected associations with CDR and other cognitive domains. Social norms screening may be useful in the cognitive assessment of older adults.

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