Old age is often perplexing. Many things become more difficult as we age including it seems the ability to tell fibs. A study has found that people over 60 tempted to tell a white lie about sneaking out to play golf or whether they like someone’s dress, may find it harder work. It’s because they are worse than younger people at remembering their lies, which makes it more likely they will be caught out.

US researchers compared the lying ability of people aged 60-92 with young adults aged 18-24 when asking them about their daily activities. Older people, asked to fib about simple things such as having used a fork at lunch or pressing the snooze button on their alarm clock, were less able to remember the truth when tested again. It suggests lying is more confusing for older people, whose mental efforts to keep the story straight was not as effective.

The study authors, led by Dr Laura Paige of Brandeis University, Mass, said: ‘Unexpectedly, results revealed that older adults showed reduced accurate memory for items to which they previously lied, compared to younger adults.’

In the experiments 22 younger adults and 20 older people were questioned over more than 100 normal activities such as whether they chatted with a stranger that day. The groups were instructed to tell the truth for half the questions and lie for the rest of the time.

When they were later told to answer the whole questionnaire again truthfully, older people became more muddled. They were more likely to remember their lies as being the truth and answered about a fifth of a second more slowly than the younger generation. Surprisingly, the brain activity showed little difference between the two age groups while trying to work out the truth, suggesting their brains work similarly, but older people’s do not work as well.

The study, published in the journal Brain and Cognition, says the stress of lying may explain why older people struggle. Dr Laura Paige said: ‘Older adults showed worse correct memory performance in the later tests, which might mean they have more difficulty monitoring truthful versus deceptive information in memory. In other words, older adults are unable to separate falsehoods from the truths because they lie. There were no age differences in correct memory for truth items.’

The study also suggested that older people may be better at lying if, rather having to fabricate information, they feign amnesia.

Well done oldies, if the study is accurate. At least we’re good at something…

In the meantime a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to my loyal readers.

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