What is it about?

Research suggests that compared to younger adults, older adults make limited use of social cues. However often this research has used very simple scenarios that lack realism. Here, we investigated how older and younger adults compare in their use of social cues in a working memory task where they see a person look at or away from items that need to be remembered. We used realistic virtual human avatars in a contextually relevant scene and observed that both older and younger adults made use of the social cues and appeared to benefit from sharing attention with the avatar. Meaning that when they saw the avatar gaze at the items they remembered them better than when the avatar looked away from the items.

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Why is it important?

By demonstrating limited differences between how older and younger adults used the social cues, these findings question standard notions of age-related cognitive decline in particular in relation to social information. This therefore adds to our understanding of how social factors may counteract cognitive decline.


While working in dementia care research, it was clear to me that being socially active is good for the brain and I have always wanted to investigate this concept properly. The work presented here goes someway towards understanding how social activity can contribute to brain health in older age.

Samantha Gregory
University of Salford

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Investigating age differences in the influence of joint attention on working memory., Psychology and Aging, July 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pag0000694.
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