How to Look Younger? Have Older Friends

Scientists have confirmed a rather simple tip for looking younger that doesn't require plastic surgery, Botox or expensive anti-wrinkle creams: Hang out with old people.

We underestimate the age of a person in his or her 30s if we have previously looked at pictures of older people, researchers found.

They also found it worked in reverse: We overestimate ages after looking at pictures of younger people.

"People are actually quite good at guessing the age of the person next to them," said study researcher Holger Wiese, of Jena University in Germany. But in their experiment, "we are able to change the subjective perception of a face."

The researchers asked 24 young adults to look at pictures of 15 female and 15 male faces. Each image was doctored to show what the person would look like in his or her 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

The volunteer were systematically wrong at estimating other people's ages after they had looked intensely at faces of people of a specific age group.

For example, if many faces of elderly people were shown on the computer first, followed by the face of a middle-age person, the volunteers made out the middle-age person to be substantially younger than he or she was. But after first studying younger faces, the volunteers estimated the middle-age person as being substantially older.

The effect was strongest if the series of older faces and subsequent image of a younger face were the same gender, the study showed.

The results held regardless the viewers’ age and gender, the researchers said. They  said they did not yet know how long the effect lasts.

"The age of the person next to you is one of the most important characteristics for our perception of other people. This leads to exciting crossovers into other areas of scientists who are dealing with the interactions of social groups," Wiese said.

The study was published in the Nov. 23 issue of the journal Vision Research.

Pass it on: We underestimate a person's age if we've just seen older people.

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Live Science Staff
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