2 UCLA studies found older adults were less able than younger people to recognize facial cues that indicated untrustworthiness. It did not find any difference in their ability to recognize trustworthy or neutral expressions.
Which says to me this is not about “cognitive decline”, but rather a kind of cooling of anxiety perhaps. Or maybe they never had to deal with an inherently untrustworthy world.
The study involved 119 older adults and only 24 younger adults (this is pretty skewed as far as I’m concerned) looking at photos of faces and judging them as trustworthy or not. Using photos rather than real life situations also makes an explanation like “this is why older people are more susceptible to scams” far too big of a leap.
A second study of 23 older and 21 younger adults used MRI brain scans to show which parts of the brain were responding. The study inferred that part of the brain called the anterior insula seems to become less responsive as we get older.
A question for me though is “What were these older adults like when they were younger?” Can we really judge people’s responsiveness to things like phone solicitations, high pressure seminars and myriad other newfangled marketing techniques in the current environment, when the world was a very different place 40/60/80 years ago?
The assumption in these studies are that those younger adults represent the older ones when they were younger and that a change has taken place from being able to recognize “untrustworthiness” to not. But people’s brains are formed by the environment they are raised in.
Your brain will have a different structure if you are raised in a war zone than on a peaceful tropical island. A caveman’s brain would have a different structure to 21st century man because they deal with different stimuli. Even using a different language changes the way your brain develops.
Maybe baby boomers raised in a dissimilar environment didn’t ever have to be as vigilant. We weren’t subjected to scams that spring up like weeds overnight. We didn’t have 500 TV shows showing all the possible ways we could be ripped off.
Younger people have been raised in a world moving at warp speed where life can be totally altered with a single nasty Facebook post. Would darn well make me anxious and wary.
Heck if someone said they were a 16 year old boy, you took that at face value, now you can have an online relationship with a 60 year old pervert and believe they are in the same year at high school with you.
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