Older People Less Apt to Recognize They’ve Made a Mistake

Richard C. Lewis wrote . . . . . . . . . .

The older you get, the less apt you may be to recognize that you’ve made an error.

In a new study, University of Iowa researchers devised a simple, computerized test to gauge how readily young adults and older adults realize when they’ve made a mistake.

Older adults performed just as well as younger adults in tests involving looking away from an object appearing on the screen. But younger adults acknowledged more often than older adults when they failed to look away from the object. And, older adults were more likely to be adamant that they did not made a mistake.

“The good news is older adults perform the tasks we assigned them just as well as younger adults, albeit more slowly,” says Jan Wessel, assistant professor in the UI Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the study’s corresponding author. “But we find there is this impaired ability in older adults to recognize an error when they’ve made one.”

The research offers new insight how older people perceive their decisions, and especially how they view their performance—whether judging their own ability to drive or how regularly they believe they’ve taken medications.

“Realizing fewer errors can have more severe consequences,” Wessel says, “because you can’t remedy an error that you don’t realize you’ve committed.”

Wessel’s team recruited 38 younger adults (average age of 22) and 39 older adults (average age of 68) to take a series of tests that involved looking away from a circle appearing in a box on one side of a computer screen. While the test was simple, younger adults couldn’t resist glancing at the circle before shifting their gaze about 20 percent of the time on average. That’s expected, Wessel says, as it’s human nature to focus on something new or unexpected, and the researchers wanted the participants to err.

After each failed instance, the participants were asked whether they had made an error. They then were asked “how sure” and used a sliding scale from “unsure” to “very sure” to determine how confident they were about whether they had made a mistake in the test.

The younger participants were correct in acknowledging when they had erred 75 percent of the time. The older test-takers were correct 63 percent of the time when asked whether they had erred. That means in more than one-third of instances, the older participants didn’t realize they had made a mistake.

Even more, the younger participants who made an error on the test were far less certain than the older participants that they were correct. In other words, the younger adults hedged more.

“It shows when the younger adults thought they were correct, but in fact had made an error, they still had some inkling that they might have erred,” says Wessel, who is affiliated with the Department of Neurology and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. “The older adults often have no idea at all that they were wrong.”

The researchers underscored these observations by measuring how much participants’ pupils dilated as they took the tests. In humans and most animals, pupils dilate when something unexpected occurs—triggered by surprise, fright, and other core emotions. It also happens when people think they’ve blundered, which is why researchers measured pupils in the experiments.

Researchers found younger adults’ pupils dilated when they thought they erred. This effect was reduced when they committed errors they did not recognize. In comparison, older adults showed a strong reduction of this pupil dilation after errors that they recognized and showed no dilation at all when they committed an error they did not recognize.

“That mirrors what we see in the behavioral observations,” Wessel says, “that more often they don’t know when they’ve made an error.”

The paper, “A blunted phasic autonomic response to errors indexes age-related deficits in error awareness,” was published online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Source : University of Iowa


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You Are Only as Old as You Think and Do

Could increasing your physical activity or feeling more in control of your life be the secret to staying young? Employing these simple strategies may help older adults feel younger and that, in turn, could help improve their cognitive abilities, longevity and overall quality of life, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

“Research suggests that a younger subjective age, or when people feel younger than their chronological age, is associated with a variety of positive outcomes in older individuals, including better memory performance, health and longevity,” said presenter Jennifer Bellingtier, PhD, of Friedrich Schiller University. “Our research suggests that subjective age changes on a daily basis and older adults feel significantly younger on days when they have a greater sense of control.”

Bellingtier and co-author Shevaun Neupert, PhD, of North Carolina State University, enlisted 116 older adults (ages 60 to 90) and 106 younger adults (ages 18 to 36) and had them complete surveys each day for nine days. Participants were asked to respond to a series of statements on the level of control they felt they had each day (e.g., “In the past 24 hours, I had quite a bit of influence on the degree to which I could be involved in activities,”) and were asked how old they felt that day.

The researchers found significant day-to-day variability in subjective age in both groups over the course of the study. They also found a significant association between perceived level of control each day and subjective age in the older adult group but not the younger group.

“Shaping the daily environment in ways that allow older adults to exercise more control could be a helpful strategy for maintaining a youthful spirit and overall well-being,” said Bellingtier.

“For example, some interventions could be formal, such as a regular meeting with a therapist to discuss ways to take control in situations where individuals can directly influence events, and how to respond to situations that they cannot control. Smartphone apps could be developed to deliver daily messages with suggestions for ways to enhance control that day and improve a person’s overall feeling of control,” said Bellingtier. An intervention could also be something as simple as giving nursing home residents the opportunity to make more choices in their daily lives so that they can exercise more control.

In addition to amping up perceived control, another strategy for maintaining a younger subjective age and enjoying the benefits that go with it may be as simple as increasing physical activity, according another study presented in the same session.

“Our results suggest that promoting a more active lifestyle may result in a more youthful subjective age,” said Matthew Hughes, PhD, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who presented the study.

Hughes and his colleagues recruited 59 adults in the Boston area between the ages of 35 and 69 who were not engaged in routine physical activity. All participants were given a FitBit fitness tracker and researchers monitored their daily step counts for five weeks. Individuals with greater increases in their step counts at the end of the study reported lower subjective ages, the researchers found.

While promising, the results are still preliminary, cautioned Hughes.

“As this was part of a pilot study, our sample size was small,” he said. “While the results suggest that walking may contribute to feeling younger, further research with a larger sample in a more controlled setting is needed to confirm.”

Source: American Psychological Association

Study: Staying With 1 Doctor May Prolong Your Life

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . .

Sticking with one primary care doctor may help you stay healthy and extend your life, according to a new British study.

Researchers reviewed 22 studies from nine countries with different cultures and health systems. Of those, 18 concluded that staying with the same doctor over time significantly reduced early deaths, compared with switching doctors.

“Currently, arranging for a patient to see the doctor of their choice is considered a social convenience,” said lead researcher Dr. Denis Pereira Gray. “Now it is clear that it is about improving the quality of medical practice with profound implications for all health systems.”

Gray is an emeritus professor at the University of Exeter in England. He is also former president of the Royal College of General Practitioners and former chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

He said this study is the first systematic review of the relationship between continuity of doctor care and death rates.

Not only can seeing the same primary care doctor prolong life, but the same holds true for specialists such as surgeons and psychiatrists, Gray said.

“Patients talk more freely to doctors they know, and doctors can then understand them better and tailor advice and treatment better,” he said.

Although technology has brought advances in medical care, Gray said, “this research shows that human factors like continuity of care remain important and are indeed a matter of life and death.”

A continuing relationship with one doctor has many benefits that can improve care, said Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

“The intangible aspect of knowing your patients, knowing their history, knowing their quirks, and knowing who they are can help predict outcomes and help you intervene,” said Siegel, who wasn’t part of the study.

At a time of increasing consolidation of medical information, communication among doctors is still fractured, he added. For example, patients who get their care in clinics or hospitals might not see the same doctor at each visit.

Plus, doctors today spend less time with each patient. “Less face time is disadvantageous,” Siegel said.

The personal relationship between a patient and caregiver should also include nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, he added.

“The whole idea is a personalization of the health care industry and a continuity of care,” Siegel said.

That’s why it’s important to find what has been called a “medical home.” A medical home is a team-based approach to care coordinated by a primary care physician. Besides providing care, it’s a one-stop location for all your medical data and a place where caregivers know you and your needs, Siegel said.

Knowing you well also helps a primary care doctor refer you to the ideal specialist when needed.

“Once you have a good primary care doctor, follow their suggestions on who else to go to,” Siegel said. “Primary care doctors are guides. Good doctors know good doctors.”

The report was published online in the journal BMJ Open.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Why You Should Eat Popcorn with Chopsticks

Robert W. Smith and Ed O’Brien wrote . . . . . . . . .

It happens fast. You crack open a bottle of your favorite drink and put it to your lips. The delicious flavor is nearly overwhelming. But a minute later, you’re barely noticing the taste as you drink it.

Or you buy a new car and think it will make you smile every time you drive it for years. But a month later, that sensation is gone. Now it’s just a car.

This satiation, known as hedonic adaptation, occurs for nearly everything that makes us happy. Look around and think of how much you initially enjoyed the things that surround you. Then think about how much you enjoy them today.

Wouldn’t it be great to get some of that initial enjoyment back?

In a series of studies soon to be published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, we found that consuming things in unconventional ways enhances enjoyment of them.

This is where chopsticks come in.

The art of paying attention

In one study, we asked 68 participants to eat some popcorn. While half were told to eat the normal way, one kernel at a time, the rest used chopsticks. We found that those who ate with chopsticks enjoyed the popcorn a lot more than the others, even though both groups were told to eat at the same slow pace.

This is because of something well-known to psychologists: When something seems new, people pay more attention to it. And when people pay more attention to something enjoyable, they tend to enjoy it more.

This is why many people seek so much variety in what they consume. We buy something and use it for a while until it becomes familiar and mundane, then we buy something else thinking it will make us happy. Unfortunately, this replacement is costly, and, in cases such as houses and spouses, sometimes a very extreme option in response to unavoidable familiarity.

Our research suggests another option: Instead of replacing something once you get sick of it, try consuming it or interacting with it in unconventional ways.

Make each sip count

In another experiment, we studied 300 people as they consumed water.

First, we asked participants to come up with their own unconventional ways to consume water. Their responses ranged from drinking out of a martini glass or travel mug to lapping it up like a cat. One even suggested drinking water out of a shipping envelope.

They were then told to take five sips of water and rate their enjoyment after each drink. A third did so in the normal way, another third sipped using one of their own randomly chosen unconventional methods over and over and the rest used a different unconventional method for each sip.

We found that people who drank water in a different way every time enjoyed their water the most – with even bigger boosts toward the end of the taste test. In other words, their enjoyment did not decline over time. While everyone else enjoyed the water less for each sip, those who drank it in different ways did not show this usual pattern of declining enjoyment.

This presents a rare solution to the nearly universal phenomenon of satiation, or the declining enjoyment that comes with familiarity. As long as you can find new and interesting ways to interact with something, you may never grow tired of it.

Business opportunities

This idea isn’t entirely novel, of course. Many companies are already taking advantage of this concept to provide more enjoyable experiences for customers.

Restaurants exist where diners eat while lying in beds, while hovering in the sky and off of naked models. There is even a restaurant where diners eat naked.

The Reddit page WeWantPlates presents a rich catalog of the many creative and confusing ways that restaurants serve their customers food, from nachos in a sink to ravioli on a washing line.

While there is no limit to the different ways to present the same old thing, at some point the novelty usually wears off. Our research suggests this is a missed opportunity for businesses to offer more variety in how a single food is consumed.

For example, when people eat a few slices of pizza at a restaurant, they typically consume them all in the same way. It’s a problem if people enjoy their last slice less because of satiation, because our memory for experiences is shaped heavily by what happened at the end.

Rather than turning off all the lights to make dining more enjoyable, as in the dark-dining trend, pizza parlors could encourage their customers to eat each slice in a different way, such as normally, folded in half, backwards, with a fork and knife, with chopsticks or while blindfolded. If they did, we believe they would likely find that their customers enjoy their last slice as much as the first.

The bottom line is that variety is the spice of life, not just in what we do but also how we do it. Knowing this can help both businesses and customers maximize enjoyment.

Source : The Conversation

Opinion: Living Longer Not the Same as Living Healthy Longer

Blair Roblin wrote . . . . . . .

Of the terms used in the health-care lexicon, “compressed morbidity” is one of the more curious.

Though it sounds rather gruesome, it represents the optimal ending for beings of the mortal persuasion.

The term originated with Dr. James Fries, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. Compressing morbidity implies squeezing or compressing the length of time between the onset of chronic illness and death.

Let’s face the stark truth that nothing in life is more certain than our eventual death— taxes are a distant second, despite what Benjamin Franklin claimed.

Realistically, the best any of us can hope for is a long life with a relatively short period of morbidity at the end.

The glass-half-full corollary here is sometimes called “healthspan,” which is the healthy part of the lifespan. You can be excused for assuming that our healthspans have been increasing in lockstep with longer life expectancies in recent years.

Unfortunately, the evidence suggests we’ve been more successful at adding years of chronic illness to the end of life than adding years of health in themiddle.

Many jurisdictions track a healthspan statistic called “health-adjusted life expectancy” (HALE) which measures the average length of time people can expect to live in a healthy state, essentially without illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. For Manitoba, Statistics Canada reports a HALE of 67 for males and 70 for females, more than 10 years short of life expectancy.

A quick history of life expectancy for homo sapiens is in order here. Long ago, humans often died rather early— and quickly — from childbirth (both mother and child), trauma caused by accidents or conflicts, infections, contagious diseases, bacteria, viruses and parasites.

As Thomas Hobbes might have put it, life tended to be “nasty, brutish and short.”

Early in the 20th century, worldwide advances occurred in public health, which included immunization, pasteurization and chlorination.

Big increases in life expectancy came simply from more people making it to middle age, never mind old age.

Today, the biggest threats to our health are chronic diseases, with onset typically occurring in adulthood.

These illnesses account for most deaths worldwide, but the incidence is even higher in developed countries such as Canada. Here, rates of chronic disease are now on the rise in the younger adult population as well, due to factors such as obesity.

So, is it feasible that we push out the onset of chronic illness?

The clear answer from the public health sector is that we can, with fitness, diet and lifestyle playing key roles. Most of us deal with these issues as daily challenges, though our success varies individually.

Amore complicated question is whether delaying chronic illness actually shortens it or just shifts it out in time. In other words, if we can forestall chronic illness until we are, say, 80, will we simply experience its full wrath later?

The implications here are profound, including for health economics. Fries and others have argued the lifespan has certain limits, as evidenced by mortality rates that naturally accelerate as we age. Therefore, if we can extend our healthspan, we will necessarily bump into these lifespan limits, thereby compressing the morbidity phase of chronic illness.

Here, my thoughts turn to Ed Whitlock, whom I regarded as a modern-day hero.

Ed was the Canadian who rewrote the record book in masters distance running, most famously running a sub-three-hour marathon when hewas 73 — and then again at 74. Sadly, Ed died last year at the age of 86.

While his lifespan was not exceptionally long, his healthspan was impressive.

In fact, he set another world record for his age group in the Scotiabank marathon just six months before his death.

We can’t live forever — and perhaps don’t want to — but health research tells us that postponing chronic illness can bring important advances in quality of life, even without extending total lifespan.

Health researchers may never win any awards for the terms they introduce — there’s probably no market for “compressed morbidity” T-shirts and collectibles — but the concept itself may lead us to health care’s pot of gold.

Source : Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper