Navigation Links
Senior moment? Stereotypes about aging can hurt older adults' memory, but there's an easy fix
Date:7/1/2013

Of the many negative stereotypes that exist about older adults, the most common is that they are forgetful, senile and prone to so-called "senior moments." In fact, while cognitive processes do decline with age, simply reminding older adults about ageist ideas actually exacerbates their memory problems, reveals important new research from the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

The study, forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, is an extension of the idea of "stereotype threat" that when people are confronted with negative stereotypes about a group with which they identify, they tend to self-handicap and underperform compared to their potential. In doing so, they inadvertantly confirm the negative stereotypes they were worried about in the first place.

The results highlight just how crucial it is for older adults, as well clinicians, to be aware of how ageist beliefs about older adults can affect older adults' real memory test performance.

"Older adults should be careful not to buy into negative stereotypes about aging attributing every forgetful moment to getting older can actually worsen memory problems." said Sarah Barber, a postdoctoral researcher at the USC Davis School and lead author of the study.

However, there is a way to eliminate the problem, the study reveals: "No one had yet examined the intriuging possibility that the mechanisms of stereotype threat vary according to age," Barber said.

Barber and her co-author Mara Mather, professor of gerontology and psychology at USC, conducted two experiments in which adults from the ages of 59 to 79 completed a memory test. Some participants were first asked to read fake news articles about memory loss in older adults, and others did not. Notably, the researchers structured the test so that half of the participants earned a monetary reward for each word they remembered; the other half lost money for each word they forgot.

In past tests, 70 percent of older adults met diagnostic criteria for dementia when examined under stereotype threat, compared to approximately 14 percent when not assessed under threat.

But the latest research shows that stereotype threat can actually improve older adults' performance on memory tests, under certain conditions.

For participants who had something to gain, being confronted with age stereotypes meant poorer performance on memory tests. They scored about 20 percent worse than people who were not exposed to the stereotype.

But when the test was framed in terms of preventing losses due to forgetting, the results flipped: participants reminded of the stereotypes about aging and memory loss actually scored better than those who were under no stereotype threat.

"Stereotype threat is generally thought to be a bad thing, and it is well established that it can impair older adults' memory performance. However, our experiments demonstrate that stereotype threat can actually enhance older adults' memory if the task involves avoiding losses," Barber said.

Older adults, it seems, respond to stereotype threat by changing their motivational priorities and focusing more on avoiding mistakes. The study is part of a critical body of work on risk taking and decision making among older adults from the USC Davis School of Gerontology, named for AARP founder Leonard Davis and the leading research center in the world on aging and its biological, psychological, political and economic dimensions.

"Our experiments suggest an easy intervention to eliminate the negative effects of stereotype threat on older adults clinicians should simply change the test instructions to emphasize the importance of not making mistakes," Barber said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Suzanne Wu
suzanne.wu@usc.edu
213-740-0252
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Aging in America: A Comprehensive Update at Society of Certified Senior Advisor Conference
2. BMA Affordable Assisted Living to Host Strength Training Program for Seniors
3. Two Social Security Reforms That Seniors Strongly Support
4. Medical Alert Company Warns Seniors on Fall Detection Systems
5. Springpoint Summer Fitness Challenge Means Healthier Senior Living in New Jersey
6. RKNet Studios Announced Cognitions Bridge Games for Senior Adults; to Fight Loneliness and Cognitive Decline, the Known Risk Factors in Early Death
7. Boston Common Podiatry Offers Healthy Feet Tips for Seniors
8. BMA Affordable Assisted Living Community to Host Healthy Lifestyles for Seniors Informational program
9. Artisan Business Group to Lead Senior Care Industry Trade Mission to Shanghai, China
10. California Based Senior Care Company Hits 10 Franchisees
11. June 25 Webinar: Gorman Health Group Senior VP of Finance Will Discuss How Medicare ACOs Can Transition to Medicare Advantage
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Conventional wisdom preaches the benefits of ... of the latter, setting the bar too high can result in disappointment, perhaps even ... progress toward their goal. , Research from PsychTests.com reveals that behind ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Marcy was in a crisis. Her son James, eight, was out ... family verbally and physically. , “When something upset him, he couldn’t control his emotions,” remembers ... would throw rocks at my other children and say he was going to kill them. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... , ... Comfort Keepers® of San Diego, CA is excited to announce they ... to drive cancer patients to and from their cancer treatments. Comfort Keepers provides ... life and ongoing independence. Getting to and from medical treatments is one of ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... is proud to recognize Dr. Barry M. Weintraub as a prominent plastic surgeon ... beautiful women in the world, and the most handsome men, look naturally attractive. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... Venture Construction Group (VCG) sponsors Luke’s Wings ... 20th at the Woodmont Country Club at 1201 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland, 20852. ... service members that have been wounded in battle and their families. Venture Construction Group ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... According to a new market ... Needles, Safety Pen Needles), Needle Length (4mm, 5mm, 6mm, ... of Purchase (Retail, Non-Retail) - Trends & Global Forecasts ... market for the forecast period of 2016 to 2021. ... by 2021 from USD 1.65 Billion in 2016, growing ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... HOUSTON , June 23, 2016  MedSource ... platform as its e-clinical software solution of choice.  ... the best possible value to their clients by ... nowEDC.  The preferred relationship establishes nowEDC as the ... pricing for MedSource,s full-service clients.  "nowEDC has long ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... startling report released today, National Safety Council research shows ... plan to eliminate prescription opioid overdoses. Prescription Nation ... the worst drug crisis in recorded U.S. history, assigned a "Making ... , New Mexico , Tennessee ... states, three – Michigan , Missouri ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: