Lasell Junior Wins Competition at Conference on Aging

Lasell Junior Wins Competition at Conference on Aging

May 04, 2015

Psychology major Beatrice Boisvert '16 was awarded second place in the annual student poster competition at the Conference of the Massachusetts Gerontology Association on May 2 in Boston. This year's conference theme, "The 2015 White House Conference on Aging: What it Means for Massachusetts," drew leaders in aging to discuss issues around retirement security, elder justice, long-term services and healthy aging as they impact older adults in the Commonwealth.

Boisvert's poster, titled "Age-related Differences in Self-Body Ownership: An Intergenerational Study" is based on her research work supervised by Assistant Professor of Psychology Zane Zheng and Psychology Professor Joann Montepare, director of the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging and Intergenerational Studies. In her study, Boisvert reported a dissociable pattern of body perception between young and older adults by demonstrating that, when given identical but ambiguous sensory information, young adults are more inclined to perceive that an external object belongs to their own body, whereas older adults show a very distinct pattern of response, with more than half insusceptible to the same behavioral manipulation.

"Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that older adults are more easily fallible than younger adults, "says Professor Zheng, principal investigator of the research study. "This, however, doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to the perception of one's own body. Older adults have a very strong opinion about self-other boundary, a perceptual benefit based on extensive knowledge and experience."

Commenting on how to more effectively take advantage of such a benefit to help the aging population better control and move their bodies, Zheng adds, "that's a big question that we'll attempt to explore next."

The study was supported by the Packard Fund awarded to Professor Zheng, who is Faculty Fellow at the Fuss Center.