Researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor the brain activity of younger and older adults while they gave truthful and false answers on questionnaires.
In the study, the older cohort, ages 60-92, were significantly more likely than the 18-24-year-olds to accept as the truth a lie they had told less than an hour earlier.
“Older adults have more difficulty distinguishing between what’s real and not real,” says first author Laura Paige, a former graduate student in the lab of Angela Gutchess, an associate professor of psychology at Brandeis University.
“ONCE [YOU’VE] COMMITTED TO A LIE, IT’S GOING TO ALTER WHETHER [YOU] REMEMBER DOING SOMETHING…”
Paige says her findings suggest that telling a falsehood scrambles older people’s memory so they have a harder time recalling what really happened, in effect giving greater credence to the lie.
“Once they’ve committed to a lie, it’s going to alter whether they remember doing something,” says Paige, who now works for Applied Marketing Science, a market research and consulting firm in Waltham, Massachusetts.