A University of Otago study suggests the ability to recognise
deceit may wear down with age, making older people less able
to lie or recognise they are being lied to.
University of Otago department of psychology researchers Ted
Ruffman, Janice Murray and Jamin Halberstadt compared young
and old adults' skills at deception as judged by listeners
within and outside their age group.
The results of the lie detection test showed both young and
old listeners found it easier to differentiate truths and
lies when the speaker was an older adult compared to a young
adult, Associate Professor Halberstadt said.
Video clips of 20 people - 10 aged 30 or under and 10 aged
more than 60 -- expressing their actual or false views on
topical issues were shown to participants. Two clips of each
speaker were shown, one in which they were lying and the
other being truthful.
The listeners, of two equal-sized groups with average ages of
21 and 71, were asked to determine if the person in each clip
was being truthful or lying. They also underwent tests that
required judgments of emotional expression and age in faces.
Lying placed demands on memory and planning ability and on
social understanding. The findings related to similar
findings on older people's inability to detect social gaffes
and older men's tendencies to ramble and go off topic when
talking, Prof Halberstadt said.
"We still don't know what exactly allows listeners to
correctly detect lies, although we know that people can
differentiate lies and truth at a rate above chance level,
though they are far from perfect."
Prof Halberstadt said it would be interesting to study
whether older adults' difficulties telling and detecting lies
affected their susceptibility to fraud schemes and their
general social well-being.
"As well as problems arising from being more easily deceived,
a reduced ability to tell white lies that spare others'
feelings may impair their relationships, for example."
The findings are to be published in US journal Psychology and
Aging. Dr Murray presented the study today at the Association
of Psychological Science's annual convention in Washington,