Social contact and cognitive functioning: The role of personality

Dikla Segel-Karpas, Margie E. Lachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Social contact has been shown to be positively associated with cognitive functioning. It is unclear, however, whether all individuals can equally benefit from social contact with regard to their cognitive functioning. The goal of this study was to examine whether the beneficial effects of social contact are affected by individual differences in personality. Method: We examined the Big Five personality traits as moderators of the associations between social contact and episodic memory and executive functioning using the second wave of the Midlife in the U.S. study (N = 3,524, M(age) = 55.8). Results: High levels of Extraversion and low levels of Openness to Experience strengthened the association between social contact and memory and executive functioning. High levels of Neuroticism and Agreeableness weakened the association of social contact with memory but not with executive functioning. The results are consistent across adulthood. Discussion: Personality modifies the social contact-cognition association. Whereas extraverts may need social contact for cognitive stimulation, those who are high on Openness gain their stimulations elsewhere. The highly neurotic might experience contact as stressful and hence as less beneficial. Emotional rather than cognitive motivation might be the reason that the highly agreeable benefit less from social contact with regard to their cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)974-984
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.


  • Cognitive functioning
  • Personality
  • Social contact
  • The big five

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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