The Maddy Bunting Laurie Penny cage fight

The middle aged brain is better than the youthful one!

She argues that on a range of cognitive skills, the middle-aged brain (roughly aged 40-68) outperforms all other age groups. There are a few tricks we lose – for example, retrieval of information such as names and a slight slowing down – but that is more than compensated by the huge gains in many of the most important forms of brain performance.

The middle-aged brain has developed \”powerful systems that cut through the intricacies of complex problems to find concrete answers. It more calmly manages emotions and information. It is more nimble, more flexible, even cheerier.\” On four of six key mental abilities, the peak comes in mid-life. It can size up situations better, draw the connections and see the wider context; this enables better judgment. It appreciates subtlety and ambivalence. In research on wisdom – what it is and who has it – one study concluded it peaks at about 65 after a sustained accumulation through mid-life.

Madeleine \”Mahdi\” Bunting (age 40 and something) against Laurie Penny (aged 20 and something).

Well, if you were a female Guardian columnist of a certain age wouldn\’t you want to find something to put you above the young tyros chasing after your position?

Ms. Penny\’s reaction can be imagined: \”Facts? We don\’t need your steenkin\’ facts!\”

After asll, she never uses them in anything else she writes, does she?

6 comments on “The Maddy Bunting Laurie Penny cage fight

  1. “roughly aged 40-68”
    Bugger. Only a couple or so years left. Better make the most of them, before I revert to immaturity.

  2. Shakespeare had it cracked:

    And then the justice
    In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
    With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
    And so he plays his part.

    I’m working hard on giving the lie to the belly part, though…

  3. Perhaps the most surprising finding in this research is that the middle-aged brain is more cheerful.

    That explains Penny’s angst.

  4. From observation of his fellow ancient Greeks, Aristotle – one of the most intelligent people ever to have lived – argued that the human mind peaked at age 59. Interesting to see that 21stC research suggests he was not far out…

  5. …though we know that in (say) maths (or, I believe, chess) the human mind peaks early — late 20s/early 30s. Aristotle and the Mahdi are talking about judgement, which is quite different to calaculation…

  6. Ms Bunting’s middle-aged brain isn’t so powerful as to provide standard errors around the claim that older brains do better than younger ones. What proportion of Maddys out-perform Lauries?
    Journalists don’t do statistics, it seems – which makes it a bit mean to pick on Ms Penny alone.

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