Most people have a normal sense of doubt when it comes to financial or consumer schemes. We know, for example, that a foreign prince is unlikely to need our assistance for an investment, or that there is unlikely to be a vitamin that adds 10 years to our lives.
Research has shown that older adults are vulnerable to financial and consumer fraud. A recent study has found that a specific area of the prefrontal cortex is critical in our ability to feel doubt or skepticism. The researchers explain that "belief" is a two-stage process-first is the acceptance of the idea being represented, and second is the assessment process that "tags" the idea as either true or false. The prefrontal cortex is thought to be critical in the ability to "false tag."
Older adults do show degeneration in this area of the prefrontal cortex. But people who are injured in this brain area will be likewise vulnerable to fraud. People with prefrontal deficits are not only more likely to believe fraudulent claims, they are also more likely to purchase or invest in the idea.
Asp E, Manzel K, Koestner B, et al. A neuropsychological test of belief and doubt: Damage to ventromedial prefrontal cortex increased credulity for misleading advertising. Frontiers in Neuroscience. ((July 2012).