“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Your Older Wiser Brain

Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain

NY Times

Published: May 20, 2008

When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.

Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

The studies are analyzed in a new edition of a neurology book, “Progress in Brain Research.”

Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful.

“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”

For example, in studies where subjects are asked to read passages that are interrupted with unexpected words or phrases, adults 60 and older work much more slowly than college students. Although the students plow through the texts at a consistent speed regardless of what the out-of-place words mean, older people slow down even more when the words are related to the topic at hand. That indicates that they are not just stumbling over the extra information, but are taking it in and processing it.

When both groups were later asked questions for which the out-of-place words might be answers, the older adults responded much better than the students.

“For the young people, it’s as if the distraction never happened,” said an author of the review, Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute. “But for older adults, because they’ve retained all this extra data, they’re now suddenly the better problem solvers. They can transfer the information they’ve soaked up from one situation to another.”

Such tendencies can yield big advantages in the real world, where it is not always clear what information is important, or will become important. A seemingly irrelevant point or suggestion in a memo can take on new meaning if the original plan changes. Or extra details that stole your attention, like others’ yawning and fidgeting, may help you assess the speaker’s real impact.

“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.”

In a 2003 study at Harvard, Dr. Carson and other researchers tested students’ ability to tune out irrelevant information when exposed to a barrage of stimuli. The more creative the students were thought to be, determined by a questionnaire on past achievements, the more trouble they had ignoring the unwanted data. A reduced ability to filter and set priorities, the scientists concluded, could contribute to original thinking.

This phenomenon, Dr. Carson said, is often linked to a decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. Studies have found that people who suffered an injury or disease that lowered activity in that region became more interested in creative pursuits.

Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the current research, said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom.

“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”


  1. I've known that for years:)

    Obama's bad for the stock market, and oil's going down. You heard it here first.


  2. Talk Radio saves the day, AGAIN.
    "Right Wing Blogosphere" out to lunch, AGAIN.
    Feinstein Amnesty eliminated, McCulsky H2b's still need to be defeated.
    3 out of 4 and counting.
    DefeatoRat still counsoling surrender instead of fighting to preserve this union.
    Wife of cop murdered by illegal child molester suing employer who knew he had been deported for molestation then re-entered.
    Drank 24 beers a day, + crack, felon here illegally, employer knowing all that hires him anyhow.
    Cop Deceased.
    Meanwhile, got my teeth cleaned by hygienist born in Philippines, mom required English to be spoken, etc.
    She's 50, owns home and rentals on Maui.
    Millions of Filipinos would love to live here, where they assimilate, prosper, raise educated kids,
    but NO, we dhimmis should settle for ignorant scumbags that DON'T WANT TO ASSIMILATE, ethnically cleanse neighborhoods.
    Don't educate their kids, drain welfare, schools, hospitals, and etc. bring drugs, violence and molesters to our neighborhoods.
    Don't speak English, so CITIZENS are denied JOBS for not speaking Spanish!
    Absurd, self-destructive, and WRONG!
    Support efforts to punish employers, build the fence, and rid this country of the invaders!

  3. "Without legalizing the unlicensed, the legal residents will continue pay for the burden, just as do the hospitials that are required by law to serve the indigent."
    Legalizing ignorant, indigent, uneducated, unassimilated, people that have no desire to assimilate does not instantly turn them into self-sustaining, assimilated citizens that contribute to, instead of DRAIN this society.

    Better to require employers to employ citizens first, whenever possible, self deportation rises like it has in Oklahoma, Arizona, Georgia, etc.

    After police officer Rodney Johnson was killed by an illegal immigrant, many in the Houston area have woken up to the true realities of having an unregulated border.
    Officer's wife responds to verdict.
    Joslyn Johnson reacts to a jury's decision that Juan Leonardo Quintero should spend the rest of his life in prison rather than go to death row for murdering her husband in 2006. Video by Meg Loucks. Pool footage by KTRK. May 20, 2008.
    The shooting galvanized the local illegal immigration opposition, said Curtis Collier, president of the Houston-area U.S. Border Watch.

    He said Johnson's death increased recruiting for his organization, which promotes stricter border controls.

    ''One of the greatest impacts may have been directly on the people of Houston because the murder of officer Johnson actually opened their eyes to this serious problem and the number of crimes committed by illegal aliens in this country," he said. ''It was a catastrophe that actually may lead to good at some point."

    The shooting came as Houston police were pressured to become more involved in immigration enforcement, a move top officials had resisted amid concern over alienating potential victims and witnesses in immigrant communities.

    For some, the Quintero case seemed to illustrate central arguments for stricter immigration control. The Mexican landscaper was deported after pleading guilty to indecency with a child in 1999, and returned to Houston to live with his wife.

    Sandra Guerra Thompson, a University of Houston law professor, said Johnson's slaying illustrates the tough spot law enforcement agencies are in.

    "There was a lot of controversy within law enforcement for years about whether they should be involved in immigration enforcement," Thompson said. "I think the case probably helped tip the balance in favor of getting involved in immigration enforcement."

    After years of resisting more involvement, Police Chief Harold Hurtt agreed to changes that opened up the city's jails to immigration officials.

    Shortly after the Johnson shooting, the Harris County Sheriff's Office started asking jailed suspects if they are in the country illegally. That information is now routinely provided to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who have full access to jails and inmates, sheriff's officials said.

  5. Flash!
    Report surfaces that farm interests were involved in getting al-Bob's consent to lobby Craig on Feinstein Ag Amnesty!
    Wide Stanced Sell Out!

  6. irvingschmidlap wrote:
    One juror thinks this murderer has potential. To do what? Sexually assualt another little girl? Perhaps to murder another person? Anyone want to bet that if any of these jurors was being assaulted and held at gunpoint they would expect a law enforcement officer to lay his life on the line for theirs. Wish we could exempt this group from future jury duty and make these 12 solely responsible for the cost of supporting this murderer for life. Read the case in today's paper on the man who beat the 3 year girl to death because she wet her pants?

    Can you imagine this jury handling that case?

    They would probably figure the child was gone - just as they did the murdered police officer - but heck - the murderer has potential. They could train him to parent and toilet train other children right? This verdict is sick.

  7. Just watched the videos:
    As the victims mention a lack of remorse, the perp DISPLAYS a lack of remorse.
    ...and some of you shitheads feel no remorse for arguing on behalf of these illegal scumbags.
    (we care more for the illegals than YOU.)
    (Citizens need not apply for compassion.)

  8. Doug: Meanwhile, got my teeth cleaned by hygienist born in Philippines, mom required English to be spoken, etc.
    She's 50, owns home and rentals on Maui.
    Millions of Filipinos would love to live here, where they assimilate, prosper, raise educated kids, CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY

    Doug, we know from our long defeat in the War Against Drugs that you can't beat the supply side, you have to go after the demand side. Because suppose you stationed guards at every 500 feet along the border. It would raise drug prices higher and higher, and the corresponding bribes would rise higher and higher, until they found a taker somewhere on that line ready to look the other way for a price. Same thing with immigrants. You have to enforce compliance on the illegal employers. But they've got politicians from both parties in their pocket. How do you fix that? Public financing of all elections.

  9. Steffy: They may be illegal, but we still need them
    A dose of simplicity can sometimes lead to a lot of understanding.

    Just consider Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy's piece this week where he broke down some basic numbers that no one disputes. I'll let him explain it in his own words:

    The market is telling us something that many of us don't want to hear.

    It whispers it in the numbers that filter, largely overlooked, through the immigration debate. Consider the most basic: In Texas, we have an estimated 1.1 million undocumented workers, compared with 450,000 people listed as unemployed.

    Even if every unemployed Texan had a job, we still wouldn't have enough people to meet the labor demand, even if we sent all the illegal immigrants home.

    Nationally, we face a narrower gap but the same situation -- about 8.1 million illegal immigrants and about 7.5 million unemployed workers.

    So we can build fences, step up patrols, get tough on deportations and decry the social and economic costs of illegal immigration, but we can't escape the market's message: We need them.

    "They're filling a gap in the work force," Waco economist Ray Perryman said.

    As the baby boomers retire, there simply aren't enough eligible workers to do unskilled jobs.

    So let's stay with the basic math here. Let's say we deport the 1.1 million undocumented workers in Texas. And let's futher say that by some great miracle the 450,000 unemployed people in the state pick up those vacated jobs, leaving us with zero unemployment. That leaves more than 650,000 jobs still to fill.

    Who's going to do all that work? It's a very simple question.
    Zero sum:
    Innocent citizens should die, hospitals close, millions of kids not get a decent education, so rich angelinos can continue to hire illegal slaves to clean their toilets, mow their lawns, and raise their spoiled brats.
    ...and Texicans can continue to be Texicans.
    (I once had a neighbor that was a wealthy Texas Oilwoman...
    she was "good" to her Mexican hired hand in an old-fashioned southern sort of way)

  10. (reply to "Steffy")

    Here's an analogy to ponder:
    A man once weighed 180 pounds. Over the course of 15 years, he packed on 150 pounds. He now weighed 330 pounds. He decided he wanted to lose that 150 pounds in a month. That proved to be unwise. He was in grave health as a result.

    However, another man in the exact same situation decided to lose the same amount of weight slowly, over the course of five years. At the end, he was not sickly, but rather was in great health.

    For the first man, losing that excess weight quickly was dangerous and unwise. For the second, losing it slowly was not.

    Who did all this work in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and early 90s, before the wave of illegal immigration swept across the landscape? The same demographic group that would take it back over slowly -- not quickly.

  11. For those of you worried about the death of conservatism, the irrelevance of the republican party, Dennis Perrin has some sage advice:

    "Observe American politics long enough, and not only will you get a series of brain-splintering migraines and endure several phases of depression and despair, you'll notice how little reality changes.

    Now that Obama has the nomination all but locked up, and is drawing Springsteen-sized crowds where followers shriek and faint, liberal pundits and scribes are asking the age-old question: Is Conservatism Dead? One glance at John McCain and the answer seems obvious. But McCain's not really the problem -- not yet, anyway. At the moment, he's trying to wipe Bush's bloody shit from his face in an effort to appear "fresh," while reaching out to those skeptical reactionaries who believe that McCain's not quite crazy enough for them. We'll see how they feel come Fall.

    The idea that the American rightwing is gasping for air is of course nothing new. We've been down this well-trodden road many times. Eyal Press in The Nation and George Packer in The New Yorker acknowledge this in their respective semi-obituaries; yet each flashes some hope that perhaps this time, reactionaries are finished for a generation, their ideas rejected by the masses worn down by Bush-era failures, the young embracing the Dems as the force of the future. It all sounds perfect, which is why many liberal bloggers are clicking their heels together in an effort to make it so. Why, we're in the middle of profound political change!, they type, confident that Obama will glide into the White House to usher in a New Progressive Era, assuming that the mean old Beltway media which hates Democrats doesn't destroy his coronation.

    There are numerous adults, some of whom have advanced college degrees, who honestly believe this ahistorical crap. In a way, you can't blame them. The US they fantasize about is so far from their actual political grasp that daydreams and reveries are about all they have left. The people who own the country encourage this playtime, as it keeps the system itself free of radical scrutiny while keeping consumers focused on personalities, promise-givers, entertainers, and would-be saviors. The Obama Show is merely the latest version of this, and the elites lined up behind Barack have chosen wisely. The cat really caresses a tune. Compared to him, McCain is like a fading Milton Berle telling ancient stolen jokes on a later version of "Hollywood Squares." Still, Americans are just lunatic enough to elect this bad comic over the mellow singer their betters prefer, but those are the risks when you allow the public to ratify political decisions made above their heads. Either way, we're still fucked, which would be fine if it was at all pleasurable. Instead, we have to kill the pain through relentless masturbation, and stroking to Obama makes the process of getting reamed a little easier to take.

    The American rightwing is not dead: it has temporarily lost its voice, and will return full-throated in due course. Pray to the souls of JFK and Bobby, rub your liberal lamps in the hopes that a progressive genie will emerge, buy tubs of lube for the Fall campaign. In the end, it really doesn't matter. Reactionaries are a permanent American feature, at least until America inevitably crumbles, and then the Real Fun will begin."

  12. I told you to revel in your seniority, Doug. :)

  13. Craig sold out again, huh? Great parting gift.

    Doug's just a young foolish whippersnappeer. Rufus, Vik and I are the three wise men around the place. (I think I have this right, no order agmong the three of us--don't ask, don't tell).

  14. One thing about getting on, at least for me, you get a real sense of what you might be able to take with you. You learn you're gonna be leaving the car keys behind. Vanity fades. The Brookes Brothers suit means nothing.(never had one) The sound and smell of a stream in spring, however....

  15. Earthquake Lights? Strange lights captured on cell phone minutes before disaster. Related, or coincidence?


  16. "I am pleased Democratic leaders realized there would be significant opposition to these controversial provisions," Sessions continued. "Stripping it was the right thing to do."

    Amnesty taken out of Iraq bill.

    Court Rules Texas Over-reached In Removing Kids From Moms


    Reactionaries are a permanent American feature, at least until America inevitably crumbles, and then the Real Fun will begin."

    That's so you, Ash. Somethig only a young fool would chortle about. You need a few grey hairs. And we don't like being called reactionaries. Though we often are, just reacting to foolishness.


    For the really aged amongst us - "Real Fun" is to be read sarcastically.

  18. Ah, that's good to know:) You had me worried there for a minute. Young people often express themselves poorly.:)
    Friends of

    Once again, you did it! The potent combination of calls, faxes and
    emails, combined with the awareness that the same grassroots coalition
    that had defeated amnesty twice last year was once again fired up and
    ready to go, resulted in the Senate's removing the ag jobs part of the
    Iraq supplemental bill.

    There are still far too many provisions in that bill that are not
    justifiably related to funding our troops in Iraq - but the egregious
    immigration provisions have been removed.

    Take a bow; you earned it!


  19. Course the old folks knew all this stuff from time out of mine that the brain scientists are just confirming--

    "It is significant that the root of the Latin word for wisdom--sapientia--comes from sapere, which means to taste. Wisdom, therefore, is derived from experience, and the NDE, in this sense, could be regarded as a taste of love and wisdom."

    from 'The Near-Death Experience and the Perennial Wisdom' David Lorimer

    found in the 'NDE Reader' edited by Lee Bailey and Jenny Yates

    It is interesting too that language contains the remembrance of different experiences of light.

    "It is clearly not physical light, but rather spiritual light, a distinction which has it counterpart in Latin (lumen/lux) and Bulgarian (videlina/svetlina). Light has from time immemorial been the symbol of the Divine, but, as Eckhart indicates(in a quotation above) this light is also knowledge and love."

  20. Bobal: "It is significant that the root of the Latin word for wisdom--sapientia--comes from sapere, which means to taste.

    Back in my day when I screwed up my dad gave me a taste of his belt and it imparted wisdom very rapidly. Of course, if I mention that nowadays it sounds like I was abused.

  21. Sweden I know, and other countries in Europe too I think, have given up the old ways, and it's now illegal to give children a taste of the belt. They're probably on the right track. Most of the American Indians practiced shunning rather than whacking. (I think) I got whacked once, but not much of a whack, kind of a half whack. Huck really got whacked.

  22. "Of course, if I mention that nowadays it sounds like I was abused."

    I think a much more effective method is to send the kid out of the house. Tell him/her, simply, come back when you're ready to obey the rules of the house. Until then, enjoy your smart adventures on the cold pavement of the streets.

  23. I was going to respond to that post; but, I can't remember what it was about. Duz that mean I'm stupid? I thot I was wis. What was I sayin?

  24. I was thinking, Rufus, that we older wise ones, we can see the forest, but sometimes have a difficulty identifying idividual trees.

    Whereas the younger one might be able to tell a hemlock from a spruce, but often get lost in the forest.

    Mat, I think that's kind of what the Native Americans did. Kind of hard to make it out there, without group backup, so it must have been a strong incentive to get along.

  25. Sometimes younger folk can't see the forest or the trees--

    Deal: MI, FL Delegates Seated with the Other 55 States

    by Scott Ott for ScrappleFace

    (2008-05-22) — Sen. Barack Obama has finally agreed to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s demand that delegates from Michigan and Florida be seated at the Democrat convention in violation of party rules, on the condition that the votes of “disenfranchised delegates” from the seven remaining states also get counted.

    “Our objection to seating the illegal delegates, of course, had nothing to do with the rule of law,” said Sen. Obama, “but it came from a sense of fairness and justice — a moral imperative if you will — that voters from all 57 states in which I campaigned should have a place at the table.”

    Sen. Clinton who won in Florida, where Sen. Obama did not campaign due to party rules, and also won in Michigan, where her rival’s name did not appear on the ballot, expressed relief today.

    “Finally,” she said, “the glass ceiling of rules and ethics which has held women down for decades has been broken.”

    Democrat National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who brokered the deal, said, “As always, the Democrat Party will pull together and set aside our differences to capture the White House just as we have done twice in the past 40 years.”

    Mr. Dean added, “All that remains to be decided is how to appoint delegates from seven more states without offending the other 20 European Union members.”

    Top of the Ticket