Older And Better (At Correcting Mistakes)

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That phrase has been applied to human seniors for centuries (it first appeared in a book on animal husbandry in 1534). But a new study shows that it’s pretty far off the mark! Researchers at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute recently found that with age you gain not only knowledge but a greater ability to correct your mistakes.

Active seniors walking with bikeThe researchers tested 44 young adults (average age 24) and 45 older adults (average age 74) by asking them hundreds of questions until each volunteer reached a total of 40 incorrect answers. They were also given the correct answer following each incorrect response. It took an average of 244 questions for the older adults to reach 40 mistakes and around 230 for the younger adults. Both groups were then re-tested on the questions they got wrong. Those results? The unexpected! The older group corrected more of their errors than the younger group did.6181043_s

The researchers concluded that “the older adults were able to rally their attentional resources to learn the true answers.” In other words, they were better at learning from their mistakes and updating their knowledge with new information. (That’s why you can’t consider most politicians to be mature adults.)

So if you’re worried about your accumulating birthdays, this study should boost your confidence. And you young’uns? If you stay healthy by exercising regularly and opting for a diet of veggies, fruits, fish, skinless poultry and whole grains, your RealAge has an ever-brighter future.


© 2015 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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Written by Drs. Oz and Roizen

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