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The interpretation of proverbs by elderly with high, medium and low educational level: Abstract reasoning as an aspect of executive functions

A interpretação de provérbios populares por idosos de alta, média e baixa escolaridade: raciocínio abstrato como um aspecto das funções executivas

Thalita Bianchi de Oliveira Wachholz Mônica Sanches Yassuda About the authors


It is now known that cognitive functions tend to decline with age. Executive functions (EF) are among the first abilities to decline with aging. A subcomponent of the EF is abstract reasoning. The Test of Proverbs is an instrument that can be used to evaluate the capacity of abstract reasoning.


To examine the association of performance in interpretation of proverbs, with education and with episodic memory and EF tasks.


A total of 67 individuals aged between 60 and 75 years were evaluated, and divided into three categories of education: 1-4 years, 5-8 years, and 9 or more years of schooling. The instruments used were a sociodemographic questionnaire (gender, age, marital status, education, income, previous occupation, current occupation and health perception), the Mini Mental State Examination, Brief Cognitive Screening Battery; Geriatric Depression Scale; Forward and Backward Digit Span (WAIS-III), and the Test of Proverbs.


A high impact of education was seen on the interpretation of proverbs, with lower performance among the elderly with less education. A significant association between performance on the Test of Proverbs and scores on the MMSE, GDS, and verbal fluency tests was found. There was a modest association with incidental memory.


The capacity to interpret proverbs is strongly associated with education and with performance on other EF tasks.

Key words:
aging; executive functions; abstract reasoning; test of proverbs

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