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In the current study, we were interested in whether adolescents show a preference for social stimuli compared with non-social stimuli in the context of academic diligence, that is, the ability to expend effort on tedious tasks that have long-term benefits. Forty-five female adolescents (aged 11-17) and 46 female adults (aged 23-33) carried out an adapted version of the Academic Diligence Task (ADT). We created two variations of the ADT: a social ADT and non-social ADT. Individuals were required to freely split their time between an easy, boring arithmetic task and looking at a show-reel of photographs of people (in the social ADT) or landscapes (in the non-social ADT). Individuals also provided enjoyment ratings for both the arithmetic task and the set of photographs they viewed. Adolescents reported enjoying the social photographs significantly more than the non-social photographs, with the converse being true for adults. There was no significant difference in the time spent looking at the social photographs between the adolescents and adults. However, adults spent significantly more time than adolescents looking at the non-social photographs, suggesting that adolescents were less motivated to look at the non-social stimuli. Further, the correlation between self-reported enjoyment of the pictures and choice behaviour in the ADT was stronger for adults than for adolescents in the non-social condition, revealing a greater discrepancy between self-reported enjoyment and ADT choice behaviour for adolescents. Our results are discussed within the context of the development of social cognition and introspective awareness between adolescence and adulthood.

Original publication




Journal article


R Soc Open Sci

Publication Date





academic diligence, adolescence, non-social stimuli, social preference, social stimuli