London: Neuroscientists have discovered an unexpected benefit of getting older, which is, a more nuanced understanding of social signals, such as the age of others, according to a new British study.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland reported their new findings in the scientific journal Current Biology, showing that older people have richer mental representations of the aging process. They used computer-generated representations of faces to gain an insight into the mental representations of aging in the minds of volunteers aged 18 to 25 and 56 to 75, Xinhua reported citing the study.
The study first showed volunteers 4,000 computer-generated images of faces, overlaid with varying layers of random patterns, which darkened and brightened certain areas of the face. The volunteers were asked to pick the “old” face from three simultaneously presented faces, with perceived age affected by factors such as darkened areas between the nose and mouth which could appear as wrinkles to the observer.
Over the trials, the researchers were able to visualise the information each participant uses to estimate old age. The results showed that younger people mentally split the faces between themselves (younger) and others (older), while the older volunteers more faithfully represented the features of young, middle and old age.
“Our research allows us to demonstrate the mental representations in the mind that predict age judgments,” Nicola van Rijsbergen, first author of the study, said Friday. She added: “This process gives us the tools to get a much clearer perspective on mental representations of faces and there is much more we can learn from similar studies in the future.”