Early career researcher awarded funding for social cognitive ageing research

3 Sep 2021


Dr Sarah Grainger from UQ’s School of Psychology is among 21 University of Queensland researchers to receive Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher funding in 2022.

Dr Grainger said she was thrilled to receive over $460,000 in funding which will allow her to continue her research into social cognitive ageing.

“I’ve been passionate about this area of research for almost a decade – this funding really is a dream come true for me,” Dr Grainger said.

“By 2066, there will be more people over the age of 65 than children in Australia.”

“Given our rapidly ageing population, it’s more important than ever to understand when and where older adults experience challenges in their daily lives.”

“We know that being socially connected is very important for health and wellbeing, and this research will provide new insight into how the building blocks for effective social functioning are affected by normal ageing.”

Social cognitive function refers to our capacity to detect, interpret and respond to social information in our environment, and is a critical predictor of wellbeing.

“Current literature shows that normal adult ageing disrupts most aspects of social cognitive function, which is extremely concerning,” Dr Grainger said.

“However, nearly all of this knowledge is based on highly artificial lab tasks that bear little resemblance to the real world.”

“Our project aims to use naturalistic tasks that more closely resemble the social interactions that we encounter in everyday life.”

Through measuring social cognitive abilities during real-time social interactions in natural settings, Dr Grainger will determine whether the previously reported age-related difficulties continue to emerge, or if they are instead an artefact of how social cognition has been measured in the past.

Experiments will include utilising eye-tracking glasses to measure the reactions of older adults with people they are familiar with in comparison to strangers, as well as how they visually navigate complex and dynamic social environments.

Media contact: Dr Sarah Grainger, s.grainger@uq.edu.au ; UQ Communications Bridget Druery, b.druery@uq.edu.au 0435 221 246