Recent evidence demonstrates that a region of the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) is selective to visually observed social interactions in adults. In contrast, little is known about neural responses to social interactions in children. Here, we used fMRI to ask whether the pSTS is ‘tuned’ to social interactions in children at all, and if so, how selectivity might differ from adults. This was investigated in the pSTS, along with several other socially-tuned regions in neighbouring temporal cortex: extrastriate body area, face selective STS, fusiform face area, and mentalizing selective temporo-parietal junction.
Both children and adults showed selectivity to social interaction within right pSTS, while only adults showed selectivity on the left. Adults also showed both more focal and greater selectivity than children (6–12 years) bilaterally. Exploratory sub-group analyses showed that younger children (6–8), but not older children (9–12), are less selective than adults on the right, while there was a continuous developmental trend (adults > older > younger) in left pSTS. These results suggest that, over development, the neural response to social interactions is characterized by increasingly more selective, focal, and bilateral pSTS responses, a process that likely continues into adolescence.