Aging Brain, Not Racism, Explains Elderly Gaffes

Older people unable to inhibit stereotypical thoughts
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2007 2:03 PM CDT
Aging Brain, Not Racism, Explains Elderly Gaffes
As the brain shrinks, particularly atrophy in the frontal lobes, the ability to restrain unwanted or irrelevant thoughts is weakened, opening up for latent prejudices and outbursts of temper.   (

Grandma’s verbal faux pas might signal not that she’s more prejudiced than younger relatives, but rather that she’s unable to disguise or overcome stereotypes, a study shows. Anecdotal evidence suggests, and earlier studies confirmed, that older Americans are more racist, but new research shows age-related brain shrinkage may be behind “social inappropriateness,” Newsweek reports.

Many have unconscious prejudices that are managed by the frontal lobe, but the brain’s natural shrinkage affects that area. Scientists found older people who used stereotypes were less able to filter distracting text from writing they were asked to read aloud. Inquiries on other verboten topics—say, a recent break-up—may stem from the same uncontrollable recourse. (More racism stories.)

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