"Life Stage-Specific" Variations in Performance in Response to Age Stereotypes
In a test of life stage-specific responses to age-based stigma, older (n = 54, ages 62–92) and younger (n = 81, ages 17–22) adults were told that a task (Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale-III block design) required either (a) speed/contemporary knowledge (YA; “youth advantage”) or (b) life experience/wisdom (OA; “age advantage”). In order to investigate the role of individuals’ own perceptual biases in response to age-based stigma, participants also completed a measure of perceived personal control of their life outcomes. Older adults showed lower performance on the task as a result of the additive effects of (a) exposure to a negative age-relevant stereotype and (b) being under the perceived control of others. Younger adults, however, showed higher performance on the task as a result of exposure to a negative age-relevant stereotype (a stereotype challenge effect, disconfirming the stereotype)—but only if they saw themselves under the control of powerful others. The opposed responses of the 2 age groups are interpreted as reflecting (a) differences in the permanence of their group membership and (b) uniqueness of age-based stigma. To our knowledge, this is the first test of the effects of age-relevant stereotypes on younger adults.
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