Stand Before the Grey Head

In 2015, the old saying that grandma and grandpa might be worth listening to may strike deaf ears, not least among Americans. In a culture proccupied with the latest tech and baying for higher data-streaming rates, soliciting advice from the nearest senior citizen--who's likely still stuck in the analog age--might not sound like the best use of time.

But according to new research by scientists at Harvard and M.I.T., the elerly may have abilities that young minds can't keep up with. Today's picture of how the brain develops throughout life, writes Benedict Carey in the New York Times, may be woefully incomplete. Scientists have long suspected that the brain reaches maturity at around age 25, then slowly deteriorates over the follow decades.

But the new study, published in "Psychological Science," suggests that while young adults exhibit faster memory recall and learning ability, other functions, like problem-solving and computation, peak during middle age. Still more surprising, skills loosely described as "social judgement"--including overall knowledge of facts, experience in a variety of situations, and the ability to determine strangers' moods based only on their eyes--peaks in the senior years.

“The picture that emerges from these findings,” writes Carey, “is of an older brain that moves more slowly than its younger self, but is just as accurate in many areas and more adept at reading others’ moods--on top of being more knowledgeable. That’s a handy combination, given that so many important decisions [these] people make intimately affects others.”

Of course, "social judgement" sounds a lot to me like what used to be called "wisdom." I'm pretty sure I even recall the Bible mentioning something about that (Leviticus 19:32, Proverbs 16:31, Job 12:12). But my underdeveloped, 26-year-old brain can't quite recall.


I never could put one past you, Alan. You're too sharp a judge of character and eyes. We sure do miss you around here, boss!
OK Shane
OK Shane
Look me in the eye.

BreakPoint Blog