According to researchers, older adults are more likely to fall for a scam than younger ones because the part of the brain that controls discernment becomes less active as one advances in age.

A new UCLA study featured on ScienceDaily.com has indicated that the anterior insula, the brain region that controls disgust, discerns trustworthiness, and triggers suspicion, slows down in older adults, making them more prone to have confidence in the wrong people.

Senior author Shelley E. Taylor, who is also a professor of psychology at UCLA, explains that many seniors over the age of 60 have been swindled out of their money by the simplest to the most complicated scams way too often, causing a loss of $2.9 billion in 2010 in the US alone.

To come up with this conclusion, Taylor and her colleagues did two trials. The first involved 119 older adults from ages 55 to 84 and 24 younger adults with the average age of 23. The volunteers were asked to judge 30 photographs of different people who were made to look trustworthy, neutral, or untrustworthy.

All participants had the same reactions towards trustworthy and neutral faces, but the older adults showed trust to those with suspicious faces much more than the younger adults did.

The second trial included 44 participants comprised of 23 older adults with an average age of 66 years and 21 younger adults with an average age of 33 years. All underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which showed researchers that the older adults’ anterior insula were less active than the younger adults’.

In the end, it’s important to always be careful when dealing with strangers. Accompany your elderly loved ones at all times, if you can, especially when they're carrying a big amount of cash or conducting important monetary transactions. There’s no need to paranoid, but being observant and taking note of social cues and suspicious actions may help avoid unnecessary tragedies.

(Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr Creative Commons)

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