Detecting and responding appropriately to social information in one's environment is a vital part of everyday social interactions. Here, we report two preregistered experiments that examine how social attention develops across the lifespan, comparing adolescents (10-19 years old), young (20-40 years old) and older (60-80 years old) adults. In two real-world tasks, participants were immersed in different social interaction situations-a face-to-face conversation and navigating an environment-and their attention to social and non-social content was recorded using eye-tracking glasses. The results revealed that, compared with young adults, adolescents and older adults attended less to social information (that is, the face) during face-to-face conversation, and to people when navigating the real world. Thus, we provide evidence that real-world social attention undergoes age-related change, and these developmental differences might be a key mechanism that influences theory of mind among adolescents and older adults, with potential implications for predicting successful social interactions in daily life.
- Developmental studies
- Human behaviour