COLUMBUS, Ohio When given a choice, older people prefer to read negative news, rather than positive news, about young adults, a new study suggests.
In fact, older readers who chose to read negative stories about young individuals actually get a small boost in their self-esteem, according to the results.
And what about younger people? Well, they just prefer not to read about older people.
These results come from a study of 276 Germans who were asked to read what they thought was a test version of an online magazine featuring carefully selected stories about younger and older people.
"Our results bolster the argument that people use the media to enhance their social identity," said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, lead author of the study and associate professor of communication at Ohio State University.
"Older people and younger people have different goals when they use the media, and it shows in what they choose to read."
Younger people, who are less certain about their own identity, prefer to read about other younger people to see how they live their lives, Knobloch-Westerwick said.
Older people, on the other hand, have greater certainty regarding their identity. However, living in a youth-centered culture, they may appreciate a boost in self-esteem. That's why they prefer the negative stories about younger people, who are seen as having a higher status in our society.
Knobloch-Westerwick conducted the study with Matthias Hastall of Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen in Germany. Their results appear in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Communication.
The study included 178 younger adults (18 to 30 years old) and 98 older adults (50 to 65 years old). All came to a computer laboratory, where they were told they were testing an online magazine that was not yet available to the public.
The experimental magazine was created specifically for the study and contained
|Contact: Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick|
Ohio State University