In 2016, Professor Laura Carstensen from Stanford developed the socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) about human behavior. Goals influence our social preferences, she wrote in her study, while directing cognitive processes.

The SST also states that the perception of time influences people's memory, attention, emotional experiences, and decisions. In general, the social-psychological theory is about perceived time and life goals.

The theory also relates to people who face endings. For example, younger people who experience near-death experiences such as a terminal illness or war and endings such as moving to a new place may have changes in their motivation.

In general, people have two sets of goals that influence human behavior. The first set of goals includes gaining knowledge and the second set is focused on regulating emotions. Both goals are also influenced by the perception of time.

Those who perceive the future tend to invest in emotionally taxing activities that provide new learning or open opportunities. When the perception of time is limited, people spend more energy on emotional experiences that make them feel good and have more immediate payoffs.

Chimpanzee Behavior

In a recent study, a team from the Kibale Chimpanzee Project share their observations of the local Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Uganda's Kibale National Park. For several decades, chimpanzee behavior was observed to test the SST.

According to the theory, social behavior changes during early adulthood when it comes to choosing friends. At this age, chimps maintained a smaller social network which they kept until they grew old.

Alexandra Rosati from the University of Michigan said, "the proposal is that this shift happens because of our human ability to monitor our own personal time horizons-how much time we have left in our life"- influencing us to prioritize specific relationships with the mindset that we're running out of time.

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Aging and Selecting Relationships

Older male chimpanzees were observed to have close relationships that were mutually equitable. Younger adult chimps had the opposite, with relationships that did not reciprocate the same benefits.

Older chimps were also alone most times and interacted with important relationships within the group. As they grew older, male chimps shifted from clashing behaviors to more positive interactions with other males.

The chimpanzees were observed to "share these special social aging patterns with humans, even though they do not have the same rich future time perspective and knowledge of their own mortality that we have," said Professor Zarin Machanda from Tufts University. The same behavior in human relationships reflects how older adults adapt and focus on relationships that are mutually beneficial while avoiding negative relationships.

Rosati said that the study gives insight into promoting healthy again among people by focusing on the right relationships. Social selectivity emerges during the "absence of complex future-oriented cognition, and they provide an evolutionary context for patterns of social aging in humans," concluded the authors.

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