Aging and Stereotype Threat
Development, Process, and Interventions
Age stereotypes are widespread and, although they contain some positive elements, they are primarily negative. It is likely that age stereotypes become internalized at an early age, only to negatively impact individuals when they themselves grow old. Negative views of aging can operate either explicitly or implicitly, affecting both physical and cognitive health. Thus, it is not surprising that older adults, like many other negatively stereotyped groups, experience stereotype threat. In the case of age-related stereotype threat, consequences have been observed primarily in the domain of memory. Similar to stereotype threat effects among other groups, domain and group identification moderate age-based stereotype threat effects. In addition, task demands, memory self-efficacy, and age (young-old vs. old-old) also determine who is most affected by stereotype threat. In terms of mediators, a unique set of mechanisms including lowered performance expectations and disrupted strategy use help explain how stereotype threat decreases memory performance in older adults. Initial work on interventions to combat the negative effects of aging stereotypes has shown some promising results with respect to intergenerational contact and exposure to positive aspects of aging. Although we have learned much about the effects of negative aging stereotypes on older adults, further research is required to determine the breadth of stereotype threat effects across domains, pinpoint which mechanisms best account for these effects, and test the efficacy of a wider variety of interventions.
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