Why are older people gullible?

Excessive gullibility, which is characteristic of older people, may be associated with a decrease with age in the function of one of the lobes of the brain - the islet. This assumption was made by experts from the University of California, UCLA, based on the results of two studies. The work was published on December 3 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report that more than 80% of fraud victims are over the age of 65. Departments are inclined to explain the increased victimization of older people by their excessive gullibility and a tendency to "look at the world with rose-colored glasses", despite their great life experience. Trying to establish the physiological basis of this situation, the authors of the work tested a group of 119 elderly people 55-84 years old and a group of 24 younger people aged 20 to 42 years.

Participants were shown photographs of people one by one and were asked to categorize them as trustworthy, neutral, and untrustworthy, on a scale of -3 (highly suspicious) to 3 (completely trustworthy). An evasive look, an insincere smile, with not smiling eyes, a self-satisfied grin, and others appeared as signs of "suspicion".

As a result, it turned out that the elderly rated the knowingly untrustworthy individuals more positively than the younger test participants.

Further, using neuroimaging methods, the authors traced the distribution of brain activity in different age groups during the task. It turned out that in younger subjects, the insular lobes are activated at the time of assessment of the displayed face. Moreover, when looking at a deliberately suspicious object, activity in this area greatly increases. In older people, regardless of the degree of suspicion of the person on display, the islet is either not activated at all, or is activated, but too weakly.

The functions of the island are to provide perception and analysis of information on the state of internal organs, on the basis of which the brain forms a scenario of safe behavior. The decreased function of this brain lobe with age can serve as the basis for the partial absence of an instinctive reaction to dangerous strangers in old people, as well as their general uncritical perception of reality and, as a result, more risky behavior. This leads to the fact that older people are more likely than young people to suffer from fraud, the authors believe.