05 December 2012
Elderly Brains Can't Process Scams
Elderly brains can't process scams, misleading information, two studies show
A psychological study conducted by Professor Shelley Taylor reported this week that a section of the brain known as the anterior insula is to blame for elderly people being more susceptible to fall victim to scams. This new information creates an interesting addition to a study conducted earlier in the year by researchers at the University of Iowa, which recorded that aging of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex results in a lessened ability to process doubt and skepticism when taking in visual information.
Prof. Taylor, of the University of California Los Angeles, conducted a study wherein 119 elderly residents of a senior living home, between the ages 55 and 84, were shown photos of both neutral/trustworthy faces and faces which showcased visual cues that alert us to non trustworthiness, such as a shifty gaze, smiling without the eyes and facial hair, and asked to rate their level of trustworthiness. The same faces were shown to a group of 24 staff and students between the ages of 20 and 42. While both groups reported equal ratings of trustworthiness while assessing the neutral faces, the elderly group was found to be incapable of picking up on the visual cues provided in the untrustworthy photos.
To expand their research, 23 senior citizens and 24 young people were shown the same photos while being monitored inside of an fMRI machine, and it was discovered that the anterior insula became very active while looking at the photos in the brains of the young subjects, but barely activated, if at all, in the elderly subjects.
The anterior insula is a section of the brain that is responsible for what is known as the "gut reaction" to ideas, places and people and for feelings of ill-ease and stress when presented with a difficult decision.
The researchers at UCLA feel that this lack of activity in the anterior insula is what causes the elderly to not be able to pick up on behaviours or signals in scam artists that younger people may find to be obvious.
Read more: http://www.examiner.com/article/elderly-brains-can-t-process-scams-misleading-information-two-studies-show