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Science shows why elderly are scam victims

Posted: September 8, 2012 - 11:01pm

In the news business we see a lot of police reports involving fraud. Like many others, I’ve noticed that the elderly quite often seemed to be the victims.

Reports from the past couple of years just in Columbia County show victims ages 71, 76, 80, 77 and 88, for example.

Some have speculated that many seniors are lonely, and thus more likely to respond to attention from scam artists. Others think it fits the unfair stereotype of the befuddled geezer.

Now we know there’s a scientific explanation.

As chronicled in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, and reported in U.S. News and World Report, researchers have found the specific part of the brain that is responsible for gullibility.

The scientists theorize that lack of development of that late-developing part of the brain – the “ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex” – causes children to be more susceptible to trickery, all the way up through young adulthood. At the other end of the age spectrum, deterioration of that portion of the brain causes the elderly to be more easily duped.

In addition to providing a scientific basis for the frequency with which seniors show up as victims of scams, the study also provides a timely explanation.

Did you watch any of the Democratic convention this past week? Did you find yourself routinely nodding in agreement with the speakers? This comment about the study from its author, Erik Asp, might explain that:

“We found that people with prefrontal cortex damage tend to be less likely to question, more prone to believing conspiracy theories and overall to have less nuanced thinking.”

And there you go.

Runoffs needed?

Speaking of politics, the Aug. 21 runoff didn’t change the outcome of the July 31 primary, but it was required because no candidate in the District 12 congressional race and District 1 school board race received more than 50 percent of the votes in the primary.

Sure, Lee Anderson received a plurality of the vote in the primary and then lost Columbia County in the runoff, but he still was the overall winner in District 12. David Dekle’s lead in the District 1 primary was merely ratified in the runoff.

That’s not unusual. Contrary to some popular belief, runoffs typically turn out the same as the election that spawns them. The person who comes in first place in the election usually wins the runoff, too.

So, do we really need runoffs? Many states have done away with them. Others have gone to a ranked system that creates an on-paper instant runoff.

It’s at least worth pondering. The Aug. 21 runoff cost Columbia County taxpayers $26,316.50, according to Jarthurlyn Hosley, the county’s elections coordinator. That includes payment to temporary poll workers and rent for precincts.

Is it worth it?

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal)

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