If you worry that getting older means you’re just not taking things in the way you used to, fear not. You are taking in tons of visual information, more than you even need.
A brand new study by scientists at Brown University finds that older people (which wasn’t specifically defined but I assume means anyone older than me) observe their surroundings even more acutely than those in the 19-30 age range.
There’s a downside, however. Scientists explained that the older brain takes in everything but, unlike the younger brain, has an unfortunate habit of replacing “important existing information with something trivial.”
This may go a long way in explaining why my post-30 brain can’t recall my blood type but does retain all the words to that gloomy Island of Misfit Toys song in “Rudolph.”
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Which is pretty awesome, I’m sure we can all agree. But less awesome when you’re humming that song in the mall parking lot and suddenly realize you can’t find your car. Or remember whether you drove.
Using dot patterns and a mix of slides with letters and numerals and other stuff I can’t remember, probably because I’m too young and have therefore flushed it from my taut, perky memory banks, the researchers discovered that older folks “couldn’t help processing irrelevant information” while younger folks’ brains responded with a cerebral equivalent of “whatever” to anything that didn’t deal with the task at hand.
The study suggests that senior brains are positively saturated by the observation of the sights and sounds around them, but all this openness comes at the cost of being unable to suppress too much useless information.
This explains so much.
Y’all can’t imagine how many times I’ve been in the car with Aunt Verlie and she is incapable of “suppressing” the information on every single billboard we pass.
“Eyeglasses in under 30 minutes!”
“Have you or someone you love been injured in an automobile accident?”
“McRib is back!”
I have grown accustomed to this nonstop narration and occasionally find myself joining in by reading the signs on the other side of the road.
There’s really a lot of information out there if you take the time to read it.
Younger people don’t pay attention to things that aren’t immediately useful or relevant to them, according to the study. Wait. I think I already said that.
At the other end of Aunt Verlie’s generation is the Princess, who at age 17 is proof that the scientists are right. She can multitask in ways that leave me breathless. She whizzes through homework on her laptop, downloading and printing out assignments and projects while simultaneously tweeting and texting her friends on her phone, listening to music and wrapping up the first season of “Grey’s Anatomy” via Netflix.
Yet in all that flurry of young-brainedness, she “can’t recall” whether she unloaded the dishwasher this afternoon or, for that matter, where it might be located. She thinks it’s near “whatever.”