Source of article Jury Insights.

Psychologist Jeremy Dean writes that as we age, our brains “show the benefits of experience.”  The wisdom of age is not a myth.

As we age we may experience instances of difficult word-finding or name-remembering, but according to Dr. Dean, “It’s not that people are forgetting words with age, it’s that there are more words competing for attention.”

Apparently, as we age our hard drive becomes more full; the vocabulary is still there, but retrieval may be more difficult and take longer.


The Myth of Cognitive Decline


Aging is a Mixed Bag

The Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center explains that while “crystallized” intelligence associated with accumulated experience remains stable with age, “fluid” intelligence associated with the mental gymnastics of multitasking and quickly integrating new information declines. 

“Remote” memory, the long term memory of past events tends to stay well-preserved with age, but “recent” or short-term memory tends to decline with age.

Younger adults may perform cognitive tasks faster, but older adults may be more able to tune-in to important nuances.


Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center


What is Wisdom?

An article by Phyllis Korkki takes a look at the “The Science of Older and Wiser.”

Ms. Korkki Mentions the work of geriatric neuropsychologist Vivian Clayton, who in the 1970s asked law students, law professors and retired judges to characterize the “wise person.”  She concluded that wisdom was comprised of three main components– “cognition, reflection and compassion.”

It takes time and experience to develop the templates for pattern recognition that impact perspective and prevent a rush to judgment.


Okay. But are we talking about wisdom or maturity?

Monica Ardelt, an associate sociology professor developed a set of 39 ‘wisdom assessment scales’ such as, “I am easily irritated by people who argue with me,” which suggests that wisdom may be a word we use for discussing maturity in life coping skills.


Wisdom Scorecard

I remember a quote from psychologist Stephen M. Johnson (Characterological Transformation) that goes, “Life is a race between maturity and senility.”  As I get older, I try to appreciate that quote, trying to hold onto child-like qualities of openness and wonder, while letting go of childish qualities of impatience and black and white thinking. 


The Mature Juror

While trial attorneys would prefer jurors who are biased in their favor, next best would be mature impartial jurors. It’s the rare case in which an attorney will prefer the younger jurors in the venire.

As jurors transition from middle age to “elderly” (which will always be at least 15 years older than I am), an attorney may have to consider the trade off between the contribution of a particular individual’s wisdom of experience to the deliberation process (understanding moral complexity, dealing with certain types of life problems), and the challenges of quickly integrating and/or retaining unfamiliar detailed information.