New research finds that older adults — and, for the record, adolescents, too — pay less attention to social cues in real-world interactions than their young adult counterparts.

The news is important, researchers say, because interpreting facial expressions, voice tone and gestures are key elements of social interaction, and successful social interaction plays a crucial role in enhancing a person’s well-being.

The findings, published by Nature Human Behaviour, show that social attention undergoes age-related change, which potentially can affect how successfully people can interpret social interactions in daily life and throughout life. The research, conducted at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology, is the first of its kind to examine how social attention is allocated during adolescence and whether it differs from adulthood, according to the authors.