During my career as a journalist I’ve been called an assortment of names, some of which aren’t suitable for print in a family newspaper. Of the list, the one that maybe annoys me most is “gullible.”
Because there is evidence to suggest that that label, in fact, might actually be true.
Approximately a year ago, when my family began the process of looking for another vehicle, I was convinced that because I perceive myself to be a pretty discerning individual, I would eventually wind up purchasing the vehicle I wanted. As a born and bred son of the Show-Me State, I was certain that no sales person would dupe me.
Now every time I wash my car, I’m reminded that I’m considerably more gullible than I’d like to believe I am.
During our car search, one of the questions asked was: Do you have a certain color in mind? My response was that we’d prefer not having another gray (silver) vehicle, since for the previous decade or more all the cars/vans we’ve owned have been painted the same color as battleships.
The sales person eventually walked us over to a white vehicle.
“You’ll like white. It doesn’t show dirt as bad as many other colors?”
Instead of arching an eyebrow and exclaiming in a higher-than-normal voice, “Say-y-y-y what?” I took her statement as fact without challenging it.
While I may kick myself for accepting the “white cars don’t show dirt” statement as Gospel, I’ve discovered that maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself since I was simply following human nature. Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid suggested in the 18th Century that humans are by nature trusting creatures, which makes us susceptible to being manipulated or downright bamboozled.
“The wise and beneficent Author of nature, who intended that we should be social creatures, and that we should receive the greatest and most important part of our knowledge by the information of others, hath, for these purposes implanted in our natures two principles that tally with each other. The first of these principles is a propensity to speak truth [... The second principle] is a disposition to confide in the veracity of others, and to believe what they tell us.”
Not only am I, like most people, wired up to be trusting, apparently I will likely become more gullible as time passes.
The Huffington Post Canada quoted researchers from the University of Iowa who concluded that the deterioration or damage to a specific area of our brain is the most likely reason why certain age groups are more prone to being gullible.
Page 2 of 2 - Researchers say the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) portion of our brain, located right above the eyes, controls our beliefs and doubts. They also suggest it is the reason why some people are more likely to fall for scams than others.
According to a study performed at the University of Iowa, the vmPFC begins to deteriorate as people pass the age of 60.
“We suggest that vulnerability to misleading information, outright deception and fraud in older adults is the specific result of a deficit in the doubt process that is mediated by the vmPFC,” wrote researchers in their summary.
The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College reports that in the last decade complaints and financial losses among aging “baby boomers” have increased. That trend is only expected to accelerate in the future as that generation of people ages.
As I grow older, will I become even more susceptible to suggestions like that white vehicles don’t show dirt? Maybe. But one thing I am confident of is that if I ever become so gullible as to start believing the campaign promises of politicians, my kids will likely take my car keys away.