Article

Stereotype Threat in Older Adults

Sarah J. Barber and Mara Mather

in The Oxford Handbook of Emotion, Social Cognition, and Problem Solving in Adulthood

Published in print June 2014 | ISBN: 9780199899463
Published online December 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199899463.013.008
Stereotype Threat in Older Adults

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  • Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology

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Stereotype threat occurs when people fear that poor performance on their part will confirm a negative, self-relevant stereotype. In response to this threat, people tend to underperform compared to their potential, thereby conforming to the stereotype. For example, older adults are stereotyped as having poorer memory abilities than younger adults; when this stereotype becomes salient to older adults, their memory performance decreases, thereby conforming to the stereotype. The current chapter provides an overview of when, how, and why stereotype threat impacts memory performance in older adults. In particular, we identify situations that lead to stereotype threat in the context of aging and memory. We also discuss the potential mechanisms underlying this effect within older adults and outline how individual differences can make older adults more, or less, susceptible to this form of stereotype threat. We conclude by discussing the potential implications, including those on health, of this form of stereotype threat and delineate future research avenues that remain unexplored.

Keywords: stereotype threat; aging; memory

Article.  14022 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Social Psychology

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