If its strategising we want for a brighter future, then learn from a bull and give your vote to oldies

Good news for Don Brash, who some say is too old to be standing for Parliament as ACT’s leader. Good news for Alf, too, come to think of it, and for all folks of our vintage.

Just because we are over 60 does not mean we are losing our marbles.

To the contrary, when it comes to strategising, we Gold Card carriers are smarter than young bucks (and buckesses).

This has been affirmed by a new study.

It has found adults aged 60 and over are better at strategising their decisions than those in their late teens and early 20s, who tend to focus on instant gratification.

The study has been reported by the Daily Mail.

The newspaper quotes researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, who said the findings contradict negative stereotypes of elders losing their mental edge and reasoning ability with age, showing they are able to make better decisions under some conditions.

Findings from the study, led by Darrell Worthy, professor of psychology at Texas A&M University, and co-authored by University of Texas at Austin psychologist Todd Maddox, will be published in Psychological Science.

Mr Maddox said the study gives insight into the decision-making process, which will help researchers learn more about the effects of ageing in the brain.

He said in a statement issued by the University of Texas: ‘Broadly, these results suggest that younger adults may behave more impulsively, favouring immediate gains, while older adults are better at considering the long-term ramifications of their actions.’

In one experiement, 28 older adults and 28 younger counterparts performing decision-making tasks, in which they only needed to consider immediate rewards to earn points.

In this experiment, the younger adults were more efficient at selecting the options that yielded the best short-term rewards.

However, in a second experiment, the older participants outperformed the younger group in choosing options that resulted in long-term gains, such as strategically storing the most amount of oxygen in “oxygen accumulators” on an imaginary space mission in Mars.

In this portion of the study, 52 older adults (ages 67-82) and 51 younger adults (ages 20-26) performed decision-making tasks in which the choices they made influenced future rewards.

As part of the experiment, the researchers created a test with two oxygen extraction systems on Mars.

The rewards depended on the respondents’ previous choices.

The respondents had to choose from two options: the “increasing option,” which increased rewards in future trials, and the “decreasing option,” which decreased future rewards but offered a larger immediate reward. In each permutation of the experiment, the older participants outperformed the younger group by figuring out which option led to the most long-term cumulative rewards.

Mr Maddox said: ‘We found that younger adults performed equivalently in the experiment, but older adults were more adept at adjusting their strategy to fit the goals of the task.’

The researchers “suggest” these results provide insight into how people use their brains as they age.

“Suggest” presumably means they don’t actually know.

But the belief is that when making choices, younger people use the ventral striatum, a region of the brain associated with habit formation and immediate rewards.

As this declines with age, the psychologists theorize that people compensate by using their prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that controls rational and deliberate thoughts.

Maddox and his research team are testing this theory with something called a neuro-imaging study, to determine which parts of the brain respond to immediate gratification and long-term rewards while the participants engage in decision-making tasks.

But they don’t really have to go to a lot of trouble, surely.

They should learn the lesson of the youg bull and the old bull.

The young bull, a newcomer to howz-yer-father, spotted a bunch of heifers at the far side of the paddock and said to the old bull “Let’s race over there and shag one.”

The old bull replied: “Let’s stroll over and shag the lot.”

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