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Brain Damage Linked to Believing Misleading Ads

Last Updated: August 20, 2012.

Damage to a particular region of the brain makes individuals more likely to believe a misleading advertisement, which could explain why some elderly fall for fraud schemes, according to a study published online July 9 in Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience.

MONDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Damage to a particular region of the brain makes individuals more likely to believe a misleading advertisement, which could explain why some elderly fall for fraud schemes, according to a study published online July 9 in Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience.

To investigate the theory that the prefrontal cortex is critical for belief and doubt, Erik Asp, Ph.D., from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and colleagues presented eight misleading consumer advertisements to 18 patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, 21 patients with damage outside the prefrontal cortex, and 10 demographically similar healthy patients.

The researchers found that, relative to the other two groups, patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were more likely to believe a misleading advertisement and showed the highest intention to purchase these products. This was true even when the advertisement contained a disclaimer correcting the misleading information.

"The evidence is consistent with our proposal that damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex disrupts a 'false tagging mechanism' which normally produces doubt and skepticism for cognitive representations," Asp and colleagues conclude. "This mechanism could help explain poor financial decision-making when persons with ventromedial prefrontal dysfunction (e.g., caused by neurological injury or aging) are exposed to persuasive information."

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