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While a wealth of research exists on how humans and other animals socially bond, the difficulty of tracking how this changes over the course of entire lives, or even between generations, means studies on that are rarer. But as societies age, it is increasingly crucial to know what these changes mean for wellbeing, according to Prof.
Women’s health through the years:
Ferguson is principal investigator on CogSoCoAGEa wide-ranging project conducting in-depth studies on hundreds of people aged all the way from 10 to 90 years to see how social skills change over time. These cover both lab tests and real-world interactions, ranging from questionnaires to measurements of brain activity and eye movements using glasses fitted with video cameras.
Ferguson is currently repeating tests with people who first did them a couple of years ago to see if there are any changes over time. One of the key focuses of CogSoCoAGE is to assess the link, as we age, between social skills based on the ability to infer information about others — termed theory of mind — and more general cognitive skills known as executive functions that involve control of behaviours. Similarly, Prof. Ferguson says that older adults tend to spend less time looking at other people when walking around in the everyday world, which could make them less able to interact with others.
So far, the overall are, perhaps unsurprisingly, complex. Conversely, empathy for social pain reduces with age. They found that any improvement in one type of task had limited correlation with improvements in others. The project findings could eventually lead to more tailored programmes and apps for well-being, says Prof. At the same time, she says, it should be kept in mind that altering one type of social interaction could also have unanticipated effects on others.
Through it, she is investigating the impact of adolescent social relationships on adult ones. She is building on the extensive data from the TRAILS study, run by a group of researchers from different Dutch universities sincetracking a range of social, psychological and biological information at regular intervals on more than 2, young people since the age of Now nearing 30, these former adolescents have themselves started having children, who are being included in the follow-on study, TRAILS Next.
This also includes collecting DNA to test genetic transmission of certain traits.
These could be used to track, for instance, how long children spend alone, in pairs and in larger groups. With CAPE currently in the data-collection phase, there are no yet; however, the team will begin analysing the data later this year. Dr Kretschmer says the aim will be to ultimately answer questions such as: does genetic predisposition towards social anxiety help explain why both a parent and their child have been bullied at school?
Or is this more influenced by a parent who ly experienced bullying becoming overprotective?
Will it be more genetic or more about parenting? And how will it all play together? The research in this article was funded by the EU. If you liked this article, please consider sharing it on social media.
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Frontier research. Social skills begin to decline in late 30s and early 40s, study finds.
Women’s health through the years:
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