Brain atrophy in elderly leads to unintended racism, depression, and problem gambling
As we age, our brains slowly shrink in volume and weight. This includes significant atrophy within the frontal lobes, the seat of executive functioning. Executive functions include planning, controlling, and inhibiting thought and behavior. In the aging population, an inability to inhibit unwanted thoughts and behavior causes several social behaviors and cognitions to go awry.
In a study appearing in the October issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science,
University of Queensland psychologist, Bill von Hippel, reports that decreased inhibitory ability in late adulthood can lead to unintended prejudice, social inappropriateness, depression, and gambling problems.
Regarding prejudice, von Hippel and colleagues found that older white adults showed greater stereotyping toward African Americans than younger white adults did, despite being more motivated to control their prejudices. Von Hippel suggests that “because prejudice toward African Americans conflicts with prevailing egalitarian beliefs, older adults attempt to inhibit their racist feelings, but fail.”