This study explored opportunities to improve the accuracy of self-reports of visual functioning among elderly by investigating accuracy as a function of stable differences in cognitive motivation. Self-reports of visual recognition were administered to a sample of 624 elderly participants (ages >56 years), followed by visual screening tests. Cognitive motivation was measured as a personality factor, i.e. the need for cognition. Need for cognition taps the individual’s readiness to invest cognitive effort in a task. Although the overall relation between self-reports and screening tests were relatively low (i.e. ranging from 0.31 to 0.37), high-need-for-cognition participants showed stronger correlations between self-reported and actual visual functioning than low-need-for-cognition individuals. In terms of shared proportions of variance between the two types of measures, differences between low- and high-need-for-cognition participants ranged from 4% to 26% across four visual functions. Because need for cognition is an invariant individual difference factor, it is not a useful tool in practice. However, it can be assumed that processes related to need for cognition might be focused on in order to improve the quality of self-reports in diagnostic settings. The results thus suggest that procedures that make respondents focus their attention on the task, make them invest maximal cognitive effort, and make relevant cognitive material optimally accessible, may lead to substantially higher levels of accuracy of self-report visual functioning.
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