According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), up to 80% of scam victims are over 65. One explanation may lie in a brain region that serves as a built-in crook detector. Called the anterior insula, this structure-which fires up in response to the face of an unsavory character-is less active in older people, possibly making them less cagey than younger folks, a new study finds.
...In the study, appearing online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the "untrustworthy" faces were perceived as significantly more trustworthy by the older subjects than by the younger ones. The researchers then performed the same test on a different set of volunteers, this time imaging their brains during the process, to look for differences in brain activity between the age groups. In the younger subjects, when asked to judge whether the faces were trustworthy, the anterior insula became active; the activity increased at the sight of an untrustworthy face. The older people, however, showed little or no activation.
But being old isn't all that bad. The elderly scored high points when it came to regulating their emotions, seeing things in a positive light, and not overreacting to everyday problems. Unfortunately, this trait is also what makes them less wary about con artists. So if your parents call you to tell you that they plan on sinking their life-savings into a new venture, you might want to check it out first.
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