Group Differences in Normal Neuropsychological Test Performance for Older Non-Hispanic White and Black/African American Adults

Amy E. Werry, Michael Daniel, Björn Bergström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objective: Although researchers have documented the influence of cultural factors on neuropsychological test performance, few studies have examined the distribution of test scores among neurologically healthy older adults from different ethnic groups. The objective of this study was to determine whether there are group differences in neuropsychological test score distributions with ethnicity-specific norms for non-Hispanic White and Black/African American older adults. Method: Participants from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center were selected if they were not diagnosed with dementia within 5 years (Mage = 75.26, SDage = 6.98; Meducation = 15.70, SDeducation = 2.91). Groups were formed based on self-identified ethnicity of White (n = 5,311) or Black/African American (n = 1,098). All participants completed neuropsychological testing, including the Mini Mental State Exam, Logical Memory Imme=diate and Delayed, Digit Span Forward and Backward, Trail Making Test A & B, Animal Naming, Vegetable Naming, Digit Symbol, and Boston Naming Test. Results: Based on combined ethnicity norms, the scores of Black participants were overrepresented in the below-average and low-average clinical ranges, and the scores of White participants were overrepresented in the high-average and superior clinical ranges for all 11 neuropsychological measures. When group specific norms were used, the unbalanced pattern of score categorization was no longer present for any of the neuropsychological measures. Conclusions: These findings emphasize the importance of developing and using ethnically and culturally appropriate neuropsychological test norms as well as the risk of interpreting some Black individual’s scores as below average when they likely are not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1100
Number of pages12
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • ethnicity
  • normal neuropsychological performance
  • older adults
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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