World Mental Healthcare Association

Adolescents And Older Adults Pay Less Attention To Social Cues: Study

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Mental Health News – Researchers observed that adolescents and older adults lack attention to social cues in real-world interactions as compared to young ones.

In a new study, researchers at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology examined how social attention is assigned during adolescence and whether it is different from adulthood. They recorded adolescents (10-19 years), young and older adults (20-40 years and 60-80 years) in two different real-world social situations, one during a face-to-face conversation and second one while navigating an environment. Mobile eye-tracking glasses were used in this research process to monitor the participants’ attention towards social and unsocial cues.

In the first experiment, adolescents and older adults spent less duration staring at the experimenter’s face while communicating and more time considering the background. Meanwhile as compared to young participants. In the second experiment, adolescents and older adults spent less time staring at other people while navigating a busy University atmosphere as compared to younger adults.

The study discovered that social attention goes through age-related changes that have a potential impact on how successfully people can interpret social situations throughout their lifespan.

‘Using mobile eye-tracking technology allowed us to gain a unique understanding into social interaction and the everyday use of social cognition in real-world contexts,” said Martina De Lillo, lead author of the study published in the Nature Human Behaviour.

According to the study findings, adolescents and older adults find different social situations more challenging to maintain compared to young adults. They try to manage such situations by avoiding complex social cues of the face.

Adolescents and older adults miss important information which can lead to larger disablement in social communication or decreased opportunities to engage in social communication with others.

‘During adolescence, 10-19-year-olds are still learning and developing peer relationships, so they are experiencing a rapid change in their social experiences and preferences. For older adults, a substantial decline in social participation can lead to isolation, loneliness and poor health,” explained co-author professor Heather Ferguson.

To Know More You May Refer To:

De Lillo, M., Foley, R., Fysh, M. C., Stimson, A., Bradford, E. E., Woodrow-Hill, C., & Ferguson, H. J. (2021). Tracking developmental differences in real-world social attention across adolescence, young adulthood and older adulthood. Nature Human Behaviour, 5(10), 1381-1390. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01113-9

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