Monday, December 15, 2014

Why elders smile, and wisdom in social signals.

Two articles relevant to becoming a senior person:
From Rijsbergen et al. (open access), a piece of work that reminds me of the book recently read by my book group here in Fort Lauderdale, the classic John Rechy novel about male hustlers, "City of Night", in which two age classes existed - 'young man' and 'old man.' Their abstract:
In an increasingly aging society, age has become a foundational dimension of social grouping broadly targeted by advertising and governmental policies. However, perception of old age induces mainly strong negative social biases. To characterize their cognitive and perceptual foundations, we modeled the mental representations of faces associated with three age groups (young age, middle age, and old age), in younger and older participants. We then validated the accuracy of each mental representation of age with independent validators. Using statistical image processing, we identified the features of mental representations that predict perceived age. Here, we show that whereas younger people mentally dichotomize aging into two groups, themselves (younger) and others (older), older participants faithfully represent the features of young age, middle age, and old age, with richer representations of all considered ages. Our results demonstrate that, contrary to popular public belief, older minds depict socially relevant information more accurately than their younger counterparts.
Also, David Brooks cites several books on the practical wisdom that comes with aging, and notes on the famous U-curve experiments in which people generally assess their own well being as high in their 20's and decreasing until about age 50 and then rising again until people rate themselve most happy at ages 82 to 85. A sample clip:
...experienced heads have intuitive awareness of the landscape of reality, a feel for what other people are thinking and feeling, an instinct for how events will flow. In “The Wisdom Paradox,” Elkhonon Goldberg details the many ways the brain deteriorates with age: brain cells die, mental operations slow. But a lifetime of intellectual effort can lead to empathy and pattern awareness. “What I have lost with age in my capacity for hard mental work,” Goldberg writes, “I seem to have gained in my capacity for instantaneous, almost unfairly easy insight.”

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