Old People Overshare Because They Lose The Ability to Filter Important Information

It’s a pretty common belief that “the filter,” which stops us from speaking before thinking, becomes increasingly thinner as we age. A new study confirms that older people really are more likely to overshare.

Related: Symptoms of Dementia: Study Finds Inability to Smell Peppermint Linked to Disease 

Researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom enrolled 100 people in their experiment to study how thinking skills change over time, according to a release. Participants ranged from the adolescence at 17 to senior years up to 84 years old.

11_2_17_Senior Citizens A Nintendo Wii bowling match held at a home for seniors in August 2008. A new study says people are more likely to overshare the older they get. Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Using computerized visual and hearing tests, the researchers assessed how well people were able to concentrate on one thing and ignore others. They also looked at what details participants divulged when explaining objects. 

In one experiment, the team measured if people could shift their attention between two different sounds while picking out relevant information. Participants were instructed to count a number of certain low-pitched tones while ignoring higher pitched sounds that played at the same time. Then they listened to high, medium and low-pitched sounds and were asked to keep track of each.

In a second experiment, they tested whether people were able to focus on important information and ignore irrelevant details. To do this, participants described an object to a partner. There were four possible items to choose from, and the conversation partner was only able to see three. Older participants were more likely to mention details that didn’t matter, according to the team, leading them to conclude that younger people were less likely to overshare. 

The researchers hope their findings serve as warning for older adults, who are often the target of scams. “This is particularly important for older adults who are more susceptible to revealing private information,” lead researcher Madeleine Long of the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement.

GettyImages-82179887 A Nintendo Wii tournament at a home for senior citizens. New study reveals that seniors might be prone to revealing dangerous security information. Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

According to the AARP, people who were 65 and older were frequent targets of scams offering free vacations or fake lottery money. Other scams targeting older Americans involved loan fraud for home improvement projects and online scams that secured for bank account numbers. People between the ages of 45 to 54 were likely to be the target of phishing scams that stole passwords.

And aside from scams, this study could help create new tools that help grandma reign in her chatter about bunions over the diner table.

"We hope these findings can be used to design targeted training that helps older adults improve these skills and avoid embarrassing and potentially risky communicative errors," said Long.

However, one study from last year did indicate that older people are happier, less stressed and don’t have the peer pressure to fit a certain mold, reports Time. So maybe there is an upside to saying what you want.

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