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Seniors Get Boost From Bad News About the Young
Date:9/2/2010

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Older people prefer to read negative news stories about the young, possibly because it makes them feel better about themselves, a new study suggests.

"The more time they spent with negative news about young people, the higher self-esteem they reported. They may get some self-esteem boost out of this," said study author Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, an associate professor at Ohio State University's School of Communication.

As for young people in the study, they weren't particularly drawn to stories about older people, or to negative stories about any group.

Overall, the findings suggest that people "are not just neutral processors of information. They have a lot of biases in their selections," said Knobloch-Westerwick.

The researchers recruited 178 young people (aged 18 to 30) and 98 older people (aged 50 to 65) in Germany and asked them to read news stories online. The participants were able to choose which stories they wanted to read.

Some of the stories were "human-interest" pieces that focused on a specific person. The researchers wanted to figure out if the participants had a preference for stories that were about bad things happening to non-celebrities (losing a malpractice suit, for instance) or good things (winning a malpractice suit).

The findings appear in the September issue of the Journal of Communication.

Why did the older people prefer negative stories about younger people? When it came to stories about older people -- like themselves -- they had no preference for positive versus negative.

Society tends to assign older people to a lower status than younger people, Knobloch-Westerwick explained. Looking for negative stories about the young -- those with a higher status -- may help older people feel better, she said.

Also, "everybody likes to think they're better than other people i
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