It happens at least once a week — I open up my email and find in my inbox a message from an older family member, always a forward, containing a warning about the dire warning about the crumbling economy, the threat from various terrorist organizations, and computer virus warnings. My reaction is always the same — I go to a fact checking website and find a link to a page that refutes the e-mail entirely and send it as a response. I wondered how it could be that the e-mails keep coming and how the forwards are not questioned for validity before being sent. It is possible that it is related to gullibility which scientists have located in the brain and moreover have determined that people in two age ranges are more gullible. Those are young people and older people.

I can certainly vouch for the young people aspect — when I was younger, I believed all kinds of things that I would never fall for now. A woman told me that she could get the children’s book manuscript that I had written published and she disappeared with a copy of it, never to be heard from again. We also have a bit of a trick with Chaim when he wants to drink what we are drinking — we tip our drinks toward his sippy cup and pretend that we are pouring it in.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for that bit of time after which we read something or hear a bit of information and we pause to consider whether it is possible that the information we are receiving could be false. In the young, the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed and therefore there is greater gullibility. As we age and particularly as we head into our sixties, seventies, and beyond, the function of the prefrontal cortex begins to decline. As the function declines, of course, so too the gullibility increases. In addition to age, damage to the prefrontal cortex can also lead to increased gullibility.

The next time you find yourself wondering why you seem to get e-mails about President Obama being a Kenyan born Muslim from certain age groups, you will know perhaps why this is the case.

11 Comments

    1. We basically use a simple ruse because he wants everything we have and there is no way to reason with him that he is too young to have, for example, iced tea. I have no plans on continuing to pretend to give him iced tea once we are able to converse about why certain food is appropriate for us but not appropriate for him.

          1. What if he wanted to touch the flame on a gas stove? Would you give him a burnt match instead?

            I guess what I’m wondering is why is it not okay for your to tell your son “no” about drinking what you’re drinking? How will he learn there are kid things and adult things?

            I hope you aren’t arguing that tricking your son is acceptable as long as it makes your life easier.

          2. Absolutely am not arguing that tricking him is acceptable for the purpose of making our life easier. I think the start of him learning that there are kid things and adult things is going to be him understanding that he is a child and not the same as us — that hasn’t happened yet, developmentally speaking. So long as we are unable to have even a two word conversation, that is fundamentally impossible. Mind you, I don’t always pretend to give him drink — but for now (and for now could be only a few months more, mind you) if we occasionally fake him out on a drink and therefore get him to stay hydrated, I see no long term issue. As soon as he can ask “Why?” (or, to me, “De ce?”) and can understand what I say when I explain it to him, I will not have to use a ruse to get him to avoid dehydration.

            Do you have any thoughts on the rest of the article? Our comment stream seems to be focused on one sentence from it.

          3. The tricking your son leapt out of the rest of the article for me this morning — and that deception directly dealt with the notion of gullibility you address in the article proper — isn’t that why you shared your successful son duping? Sometimes you can’t anticipate where an article will lead a reader.

            If you don’t want to give him a burnt match, you could always buy him a microwave.

          4. Just to add — at this stage if we deny him one food, he has no qualms eating another. If we deny him what he wants to drink, he absolutely won’t drink anything for a long time, and that is not good for him physically. I’d rather he think we gave him a little Snapple than him go thirsty that long.

  1. One day I was perusing the ‘freshly pressed’ section of WordPress and stumbled on this blog. It was the title of the particular post that captured my attention – **not** the name of the blog itself.
    http://daddy-drinks.com/2012/08/16/lie-to-me-five-lies-im-proud-of-telling-my-kids/

    But this expounds on the concept that has been discussed here. In my experience, fake-pouring tea is a merciful way to make a child happy that doesn’t know the difference between healthy and not healthy. At that point there’s a decision between exercising absolute authority (which one obviously has) or showing love and understanding that the child craves something that is not good for him/her. At two years old the whole world revolves around the two year old, and he/she can’t differentiate between self thoughts, and external thoughts.

    Now to the meat of gullibility: I have learned something today. I have often wondered how and why elderly people, who supposedly have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, scars, and wrinkles to prove it, should be scammed so successfully and so often.

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