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Why do people forget how to read correctly with age



Psychologists Thomas Erickson and Mark Mattson have long cited the question “How many animals of each species did Moses take with him to the ark?” People usually answer it: “One pair of each type” and do not notice that the question is formulated incorrectly: it was not Moses who gathered the animals on the ark, but Noah. Also, people often misinterpret the sentence “The dog was bitten by a man.”

Researchers from the Higher School of Economics conducted an experiment in which they tested how people of different ages read. They had to read the following sentences: 1) Misha met with the fireman’s dentist, who filled his teeth quickly and painlessly; 2) Misha met with the dentist of the firefighter who extinguished the fire in the warehouse; 3) Misha met with the fireman’s dentist, who extinguished the fire in the warehouse; 4) Misha met with the fireman’s dentist, who was filling his teeth quickly and painlessly.

It turned out that the question “Who put out the fire in the warehouse?” after the third sentence, participants can answer “fireman”, although this is not true. Adolescents and young adults answered the question incorrectly in 63–68% of cases. The elderly were even more likely to make mistakes – 79% of the time.

The researchers concluded that this is due to the tendency of older people to trust their experiences and expectations more than to rely on the rules of the language. The unconscious “law” of saving cognitive resources is also triggered.

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