Bratt, C., Abrams, D., & Swift, H. (2020). Supporting the Old but Neglecting the Young? The Two Faces of Ageism. Developmental Psychology. doi:10.1037/dev0000903
Ageism is the most prevalent form of prejudice and is experienced by both older and younger people. Little is known about whether these experiences are interdependent or have common origins. We analyze data from 8,117 older (aged 70 and over) and 11,647 younger respondents (15–29 years) in representative samples from 29 countries in the European Social Survey. Using multilevel structural equation modeling, we test the hypothesis that older people are less likely, and younger people more likely, to suffer age discrimination if they live in a country with stronger structural support for older people. We also test the hypothesis that although stronger social norm against age discrimination reduce age discrimination suffered by older people it does not inhibit discrimination against younger people. These hypotheses are supported, and the results underline the neglected problem of ageism toward youth. Findings highlight that strategies for reducing age prejudice must address ageism as a multigenerational challenge, requiring attention to intergenerational cohesion and resource distribution between ages.
Tresh, F., Steeden, B., Randsley de Moura, G., Leite, A., Swift, H., & Player, A. (2019). Endorsing and Reinforcing Gender and Age Stereotypes: The Negative Effect on Self-Rated Leadership Potential for Women and Older Workers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 688. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00688
Previous research has examined the impact of stereotypes on outcomes such as
career progression and hiring decisions. We present a novel approach to examine
the role of stereotypes in predicting self-rated leadership potential across gender and
age groups. This research sheds light on the impact of leadership-incongruent and
detrimental stereotypes about one’s gender and age, for women and older workers, on
self-ratings of leadership potential. Across three studies (total N = 640), correlational and
experimental evidence shows differential effects of stereotypes about women (vs. men)
and older (vs. younger) people on self-ratings of their own leadership potential. Results
suggest that both gender and age stereotypes affect older workers more than their
younger counterparts (Study 1). Specifically, effects on self-rated leadership potential
at the intersectional level show that endorsement of stereotypes has opposite effects on
older women to younger men (Study 1). Furthermore, stereotyped workplace cultures
impacted women’s and older worker’s perceptions of job fit (Studies 2 and 3), also
extending to job appeal for older workers (Study 3). Results are discussed in terms of
career implications for both women and older workers, with a particular focus on older
women, whose intersecting identities are leadership stereotype-incongruent.
Mahmood, L., Abrams, D., Meleady, R., Hopthrow, T., Lalot, F., Swift, H., & Van de Vyver, J. (2019). Intentions, efficacy, and norms: The impact of different self-regulatory cues on reducing engine idling at long wait stops. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 66, 101368. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101368
Idling engines contribute significantly to air pollution and health problems. In a field study at a busy railway crossing we used the Theory of Planned Behavior to design persuasive messages to convince car drivers (N = 442) to turn off their engines during long wait stops. We compared the effects of three different messages (focusing on outcome efficacy, normative reputation, or reflection on one's intentions) against a baseline condition. With differing effectiveness, all three messages had a positive effect compared with the baseline. Drivers were most likely to turn off their engines when the message focused on outcome efficacy (49%) or reflection (43%), as compared to the baseline (29%). The increased compliance in the normative reputation condition (38%) was not significantly different from baseline. Thus, stimulating self-regulatory processes, particularly outcome efficacy, is demonstrated to have a positive effect on pro-environmental driving behavior. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Bratt, C., Abrams, D., Swift, H., Vauclair, C., & Marques, S. (2017). Perceived Age Discrimination Across Age in Europe: From an Ageing Society to a Society for All Ages. Developmental Psychology, 54, 167-180. doi:10.1037/dev0000398
Ageism is recognized as a significant obstacle to older people’s well-being, but age discrimination against younger people has attracted less attention. We investigate levels of perceived age discrimination across early to late adulthood, using data from the European Social Survey (ESS), collected in 29 countries (N = 56,272). We test for approximate measurement invariance across countries. We use local structural equation modeling as well as moderated nonlinear factor analysis to test for measurement invariance across age as a continuous variable. Using models that account for the moderate degree of noninvariance, we find that younger people report experiencing the highest levels of age discrimination. We also find that national context substantially affects levels of ageism experienced among older respondents. The evidence highlights that more research is needed to address ageism in youth and across the life span, not just old adulthood. It also highlights the need to consider factors that differently contribute to forms of ageism experienced by people at different life stages and ages.
Swift, H., Abrams, D., Lamont, R., & Drury, L. (2017). The Risks of Ageism Model: How Ageism and Negative Attitudes toward Age Can Be a Barrier to Active Aging. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11, 195-231. doi:10.1111/sipr.12031
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) active aging framework recognizes that age barriers and ageism need to be removed in order to increase potential for active aging. However, there has been little empirical analysis of ways in which ageism and attitudes toward age impact on active aging. This article sets out the Risks of Ageism Model (RAM) to show how ageism and attitudes toward age can impact the six proposed determinants of active aging via three pathways; (1) stereotype embodiment, the process through which stereotypes are internalized and become self-relevant, (2) stereotype threat, the perceived risk of conforming to negative stereotypes about one’s group, and (3) age discrimination, unfair treatment based on age. Active aging policies are likely to be more successful if they attend to these three pathways when challenging ageism and negative attitudes toward age.
Drury, L., Abrams, D., Swift, H., Lamont, R., & Gerocova, K. (2016). Can Caring Create Prejudice? An Investigation of Positive and Negative Intergenerational Contact in Care Settings and the Generalisation of Blatant and Subtle Age Prejudice to Other Older People. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 27, 65-82. doi:10.1002/casp.2294
Caring is a positive social act, but can it result in negative attitudes towards those cared for, and towards others from their wider social group? Based on intergroup contact theory, we tested whether care workers’ (CWs) positive and negative contact with old-age care home residents (CHRs) predicts prejudiced attitudes towards that group, and whether this generalises to other older people. Fifty-six CWs were surveyed about their positive and negative contact with CHRs and their blatant and subtle attitudes (humanness attributions) towards CHRs and older adults. We tested indirect paths from contact with CHRs to attitudes towards older adults via attitudes towards CHRs. Results showed that neither positive nor negative contact generalised blatant ageism. However, the effect of negative, but not positive, contact on the denial of humanness to CHRs generalised to subtle ageism towards older adults. This evidence has practical implications for management of CWs’ work experiences and theoretical implications, suggesting that negative contact with a subgroup generalises the attribution of humanness to superordinate groups. Because it is difficult to identify and challenge subtle prejudices such as dehumanisation, it may be especially important to reduce negative contact.
Vauclair, C., Lima, M., Abrams, D., Swift, H., & Bratt, C. (2016). What Do Older People Think That Others Think of Them, and Does It Matter? The Role of Meta-Perceptions and Social Norms in the Prediction of Perceived Age Discrimination. Psychology and Aging, 31, 699-710. doi:10.1037/pag0000125
Psychological theories of aging highlight the importance of social context. However, very little research has distinguished empirically between older people’s perception of how others in their social context perceive them (personal meta-perceptions) and the shared perceptions in society (societal meta-perceptions). Drawing on theories of intergroup relations and stereotyping and using a multilevel perspective, this article examines how well older people’s perceptions of age discrimination (PAD) are predicted by (a) older people’s personal meta-perceptions, (b) societal meta-perceptions, and (c) social norms of intolerance toward age prejudice. Aging meta-perceptions are differentiated into the cognitive and affective components of ageism. Multilevel analyses of data from the European Social Survey (N over 70 years of age 8,123, 29 countries; European Social Survey (ESS) Round 4 Data, 2008) confirmed that older people’s personal meta-perceptions of negative age stereotypes and specific intergroup emotions (pity, envy, contempt) are associated with higher PAD. However, at the societal-level, only paternalistic meta-perceptions were consistently associated with greater PAD. The results show that a few meta-perceptions operate only as a psychological phenomenon in explaining PAD, some carry consonant, and others carry contrasting effects at the societal-level of analysis. This evidence extends previous research on aging meta-perceptions by showing that both the content of meta-perceptions and the level of analysis at which they are assessed make distinct contributions to PAD. Moreover, social norms of intolerance of age prejudice have a larger statistical effect than societal meta-perceptions. Social interventions would benefit from considering these differential findings.
Abrams, D., Swift, H., & Drury, L. (2016). Old and Unemployable? How Age-Based Stereotypes Affect Willingness to Hire Job Candidates. Journal of Social Issues, 72, 105-121. doi:10.1111/josi.12158
Across the world people are required or want to work until an increasingly old age. But how might prospective employers view job applicants who have skills and qualities that they associate with older adults? This paper draws on social role theory, age stereotypes and research on hiring biases, and reports 3 studies using age-diverse North American participants. These studies reveal that a) positive older age stereotype characteristics are viewed less favorably as criteria for job hire, b) even when the job role is low status a younger stereotype profile tends to be preferred, and c) an older stereotype profile is only considered hirable when the role is explicitly cast as subordinate to that of a candidate with a younger age profile. Implications for age-positive selection procedures and ways to reduce the impact of implicit age biases are discussed.
Lamont, R., Swift, H., & Abrams, D. (2015). A Review and Meta-Analysis of Age-Based Stereotype Threat: Negative Stereotypes, Not Facts, Do the Damage. Psychology and Aging, 1-14. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038586
Stereotype threat effects arise when an individual feels at risk of confirming a negative stereotype about their group and consequently underperforms on stereotype relevant tasks (Steele, 2010). Among older people, underperformance across cognitive and physical tasks is hypothesized to result from age-based stereotype threat (ABST) because of negative age-stereotypes regarding older adults’ competence. The present review and meta-analyses examine 22 published and 10 unpublished articles, including 82 effect sizes (N = 3882) investigating ABST on older people’s (Mage = 69.5) performance. The analysis revealed a significant small-to-medium effect of ABST (d = .28) and important moderators of the effect size. Specifically, older adults are more vulnerable to ABST when (a) stereotype-based rather than fact-based manipulations are used (d = .52); (b) when performance is tested using cognitive measures (d = .36); and (c) occurs reliably when the dependent variable is measured proximally to the manipulation. The review raises important theoretical and methodological issues, and areas for future research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)
Marques, S., Swift, H., Vauclair, C., Lima, M., Bratt, C., & Abrams, D. (2014). Being old and ill’ across different countries: Social status, age identification and older people’s subjective health. Psychology & Health, 30, 699-714. doi:10.1080/08870446.2014.938742
It has been suggested that the extent to which older adults identify with 'old-age' is associated with greater subjective ill-health. Based on social identity theory, we hypothesise that the societal social status of older people should moderate this relationship, such that the effect of age-identification on subjective health should be stronger in countries in which older people have lower social status.
Design and main outcome measures:
Subjective health, age identification and the perceived status of people over 70 were assessed in a subsample of older respondents (N = 6185) of the 2008/2009 European Social Survey. We examined whether country-level differences in the perceived status of older adults moderated the effect of age identification on subjective ill-health.
20% of the total variance in older people's subjective ill-health was due to country differences. The hypothesised cross-level interaction was significant in that the negative association between old age identification and subjective health was stronger in countries where the social status of older people is perceived to be lower.
The results provide an important insight into being ascribed a higher social status is likely to have a protective function for older people.
Vauclair, C., Marques, S., Lima, M., Bratt, C., Swift, H., & Abrams, D. (2014). Subjective Social Status of Older People Across Countries: The Role of Modernization and Employment. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 70, 650-660. Retrieved from http://psychsocgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/70/4/650
Vauclair, C., Marques, S., Lima, M., Abrams, D., Swift, H., & Bratt, C. (2014). Perceived Age Discrimination as a Mediator of the Association Between Income Inequality and Older People’s Self-Rated Health in the European Region. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 70, 901-912. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbu066
Marques, S., Lima, M., Abrams, D., & Swift, H. (2014). Will to live in older people’s medical decisions: immediate and delayed effects of aging stereotypes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 44, 399-408. doi:10.1111/jasp.12231
This research explores the duration of age stereotype priming effects on individuals’
will to live when faced with a medical terminal illness decision. Study 1 established
the content of the stereotype of the older age group in Portugal. Study 2 tested the
effects of priming positive or negative age stereotypes on older and younger individuals’
will to live, immediately after priming or after a delay. Results showed significant
effects of stereotype valence on older people’s will to live. As expected,
immediate and delayed will-to-live scores were both lower in the negative than in the
positive condition. In contrast, among younger people there were no significant
effects of stereotype valence. These findings demonstrate the robustness of these
types of unconscious influences on older people’s fundamental decisions.
Hopthrow, T., Randsley de Moura, G., Meleady, R., Abrams, D., & Swift, H. (2014). Drinking in social groups. Does ’groupdrink’ provide safety in numbers when deciding about risk?. Addiction, 109, 913-921. doi:10.1111/add.12496
To investigate the impact of alcohol consumption on risk decisions taken both individually and while part of a four- to six-person ad-hoc group.
A 2 (alcohol: consuming versus not consuming alcohol) x 2 (decision: individual, group) mixed-model design; decision was a repeated measure. The dependent variable was risk preference, measured using choice dilemmas.
Opportunity sampling in campus bars and a music event at a campus-based university in the United Kingdom.
A total of 101 individuals were recruited from groups of four to six people who either were or were not consuming alcohol.
Participants privately opted for a level of risk in response to a choice dilemma and then, as a group, responded to a second choice dilemma. The choice dilemmas asked participants the level of accident risk at which they would recommend someone could drive while intoxicated.
Five three-level multi-level models were specified in the software program HLM 7. Decisions made in groups were less risky than those made individually (B = -0.73, P < 0.001). Individual alcohol consumers opted for higher risk than non-consumers (B = 1.27, P = 0.025). A significant alcohol?×?decision interaction (B = -2.79, P = 0.001) showed that individual consumers privately opted for higher risk than non-consumers, whereas risk judgements made in groups of either consumers or non-consumers were lower. Decisions made by groups of consumers were less risky than those made by groups of non-consumers (B = 1.23, P < 0.001).
Moderate alcohol consumption appears to produce a propensity among individuals towards increased risk-taking in deciding to drive while intoxicated, which can be mitigated by group monitoring processes within small (four- to six-person) groups.
Swift, H., Abrams, D., & Marques, S. (2012). Threat or boost: Social comparison affects older people’s performance differently depending on task domain. Journals of Gerontology, Series B, 68, 23-30. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbs044
Objectives. In this research, we investigate whether social comparison with younger people can result in either a stereotype-based threat or boost in older people’s performance.
Methods. Study 1 used nationally representative data to establish domains of performance in which older people are either stereotypically disadvantaged or advantaged relative to younger people. Study 2 was an experiment to test how a potentially threatening versus control versus enhancing comparison with younger people would affect performance in negatively and positively stereotyped task domains.
Results. As predicted, compared with the control condition, stereotype threat caused performance decrements in both task domains. This effect was partially mediated by anxiety. Moreover, the enhancing social comparison boosted performance, but only on a crossword task, a task on which older people’s abilities are favorably stereotyped.
Discussion. The research demonstrates that a threatening comparison can result in underperformance by older people both in negatively and positively self-stereotyped task domains. It also demonstrates that social comparison with younger people can enhance older people’s performance in a positively stereotyped task domain. The implications for creating circumstances likely to enable older people to achieve their full potential are discussed.
Swift, H., Lamont, R., & Abrams, D. (2012). Are they half as strong as they used to be? An experiment testing whether age-related social comparisons impair older people’s hand grip strength and persistence. British Medical Journal, 2, 1-6. doi:doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001064
Drury, L., Abrams, D., & Swift, H. (2017). Making Intergenerational Connections: An Evidence Review. Age UK, London, Kent, UK. Retrieved from http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/research/communities/making-intergenerational-connections-june-2017/
Improving intergenerational attitudes and relationships is a public policy focus in many countries around the world. In response to this, many organisations arrange intergenerational contact programmes in which younger and older people interact, with the aim of fostering improved attitudes reducing ageism and other beneficial outcomes.
Many psychological research projects have examined the nature of social contact between different age groups, but evidence from these has never been synthesised to inform the design of intergenerational contact programmes. Consequently, practitioners have not benefited from optimal use of evidence which could reliably inform practice and policy. This review, for Age UK, aims to address the evidence-practice gap. We synthesise international evidence generated from 48 peer reviewed research studies and evaluate 31 intergenerational contact programmes to explore what aspects make them more or less successful and provide useful insights for programme design and public policy.
Swift, H., Abrams, D., Drury, L., & Lamont, R. (2016). The perception of ageing and age discrimination. British Medical Association, Kent, UK. Retrieved from https://www.bma.org.uk/-/media/files/pdfs/collective%20voice/policy%20research/public%20and%20population%20health/age-discrimination-and-the-perception-of-ageing.pdf
Abrams, D., Swift, H., Lamont, R., & Drury, L. (2015). The barriers to and enablers of positive attitudes to ageing and older people, at the societal and individual level. Government Office for Science, Kent, UK. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/future-of-ageing-attitudes-to-ageing
In the light of social and economic challenges posed by rapid population ageing there is an
increased need to understand ageism – how it is expressed and experienced, its consequences
and the circumstances that contribute to more or less negative attitudes to age.
Ageism is the most prevalent form of discrimination in the UK (Abrams et al., 2011a), estimated
to cost the economy £31 billion per year (Citizens Advice, 2007). It restricts employment
opportunities, and reduces workplace productivity and innovation (Swift et al., 2013). Ageism
also results in inequality and social exclusion, reducing social cohesion and well-being (Abrams
and Swift, 2012; Stuckelberger et al., 2012; Swift et al., 2012). Not only is ageism a barrier to
the inclusion and full participation of older people in society, but it also affects everyone by
obscuring our understanding of the ageing process. Moreover, by reinforcing negative
stereotypes, ageism can even shape patterns of behaviour that are potentially detrimental to
people’s self-interest (Lamont et al., 2015).
Here we review national and some international research from the last 25 years to reveal what
our core attitudes to ageing are and how they result in discrimination and other damaging
consequences. We outline the prevalence of perceived age-based discrimination and its
consequences for individuals and society, and then explore the individual and societal factors
that contribute to more positive or negative attitudes to age and their application to reducing
experiences of ageism. We conclude by considering areas that are likely to be key for policy,
research and practice.
Goodman, A., Adams, A., & Swift, H. (2015). Hidden Citizens: How can we identify loneliness in our communities?. The Campaign to End Loneliness, Kent, UK. Retrieved from http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/hidden-citizens/
Abrams, D., Russell, P., Vauclair, M., & Swift, H. (2011). Ageism in Europe: Findings from the European Social Survey. AgeUK. Retrieved from http://www.ageuk.org.uk/documents/en-gb/id10704%20ageism%20across%20europe%20report%20interactive.pdf?dtrk=true
Abrams, D., Vauclair, M., & Swift, H. (2011). Predictors of attitudes to age across Europe. Department of Work and Pensions, UK. Retrieved from http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2011-2012/rrep735.pdf
DWP Research Report No 735
Abrams, D., Russell, P., Vauclair, M., & Swift, H. (2011). A snapshot of Ageism in the UK and across Europe. AgeUK. Retrieved from http://www.ageuk.org.uk/documents/en-gb/for-professionals/research/snapshot_of_ageism_in_europe.pdf?dtrk=true
Abrams, D., Russell, P., Vauclair, M., & Swift, H. (2011). Grey Matters – A Survey of Ageism across Europe: EU Briefing and Policy Recommendations. AgeUK. Retrieved from http://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/ageism_across_europe_report.pdf?dtrk=true
Abrams, D., Eilola, T., & Swift, H. (2009). Attitudes to age in Britain 2004-08. Department for Work and Pensions. Retrieved from http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/report_abstracts/rr_abstracts/rra_599.asp
In the context of Britain's ageing population an important challenge is how to respond to people's assumptions and expectations about age and ageing. Attitudes to age can affect people of all ages, and involve people's views both of themselves and of others. These attitudes have important implications for individual well-being, for age equality and for social cohesion. Understanding attitudes to age is essential if we are to develop appropriate strategies for an ageing population. This research analysed evidence on attitudes to age in Britain between 2004 and 2008. The data are from over 6,000 respondents to a series of five nationally representative face-to-face interview surveys. Seven issues were examined:
the importance of age to people’s self-concept, and what determines how they judge others as ‘young’ or ‘old’
beliefs that age prejudice and discrimination are a problem
personal experience of age discrimination
stereotypes that exist about older and younger people, and their implications
beliefs that the ageing population endangers employment prospects, access to services and resources, or endangers the culture and way of life of all people
the expression of age prejudice and
beliefs that younger and older people share a single community and intergenerational divide
Palmer, S. (2017). Ageism in care home staff: Do staff attitudes towards ageing affect the quality of life of care home residents?.
Ageism is prevalent in health and social care, both in terms of the structure of services, as well as the attitudes and behaviours of professionals (CPA, 2009). This thesis explores the ways in which ageism (i.e. ageist attitudes), manifests in health and social care and the consequences of these for residents in health and social care settings. Specifically, the research explores the factors which are associated with attitudes held by care home staff, and the extent to which these attitudes affect the quality of life of the residents they support.
Two empirical studies were carried out on a sample of 18 care homes, from which attitudinal data was collected from 131 staff, and social care related quality of life (SCRQoL) data from 174 residents. Study 1 looked at the attitudes towards ageing held by staff, in terms of prejudice (feelings towards the elderly outgroup), stereotyping (agreement with ageist statements), and anxiety about own ageing. Drawing on intergroup contact theory, the study found that more negative contact with care home residents was associated with stereotyping, whereas positive contact was related to lower ageing anxiety. Subjective wellbeing and job satisfaction were also predictors of ageing anxiety. Negative outgroup attitudes were related to lower job satisfaction and education level. In line with previous research ageing anxiety was additionally found to mediate the relationship between negative contact and outgroup attitudes.
Study 2 investigated the relationship between the staff attitudes established in study 1, and resident SCRQoL. Multilevel analysis showed that a higher average level of ageing anxiety in staff was related to poorer resident SCRQoL. Dementia diagnoses, resident health, and care home quality were also all significant predictors in the final model.
Implications for care homes are discussed, including the need to negate the effect of negative contact reported by staff, as well as the ageing anxiety felt by staff. Training is identified and explored as a potential intervention.
Drury, L. (2017). Using psychological mechanisms to reduce intergenerational ageism via intergroup contact.
Positive social interaction between members of opposing social groups (intergroup contact) is an effective method of prejudice reduction (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). This thesis explores how intergroup contact theory can be applied to age groups to reduce ageism towards older adults. Chapters 1 to 3 form the theoretical chapters of the thesis. Chapter 1 defines psychological processes underpinning ageism, provides details of its prevalence, outlines its consequences in society, and gives a justification for its reduction. Chapter 2 introduces the psychological processes underpinning intergroup contact theory and its different formations. This is followed by a literature review of intergenerational contact research, which identifies research gaps in the field and research questions addressed in this thesis.
Four empirical chapters then present findings from eight studies. In Chapter 4, Study 1 provides initial correlational evidence of the relationships between direct intergenerational contact, ageism and related psychological processes. Chapter 5 addresses the research question of whether extended contact can be successfully applied to age groups. Studies 2, 3 and 4 provide novel evidence that extended intergenerational contact reduces ageism and is effective via reduced intergroup anxiety, ageing anxiety and ingroup norms. These studies also support prior research demonstrating that direct contact reduces ageism via intergroup and ageing anxieties.
Chapter 6 presents two studies that extend the focus of the thesis to include age stereotypes. Secondary analysis of national survey data in Study 5 explores the perception of older adults' competence across the lifespan and friendships with older adults. The degree to which young and middle-aged adults perceive that competence declines with age is attenuated by having as little as one older friend. Building on these findings, Study 6 explores the relationships between direct and extended intergenerational contact, ageist attitudes and warmth and competence stereotypes. Corroborating Chapter 4, both direct and extended contact predicted reduced ageism and are effective via increased competence stereotypes and increased warmth stereotypes.
In the final empirical chapter in the thesis Chapter 7 presents two studies that explore intergenerational contact theory in applied contexts. Using an experimental design, Study 7 evaluated an intergenerational programme in which students had conversations with older adults about their technology use. Compared to a control group, the experimental group rated older adults as warmer yet more incompetent. However, only warmth and not incompetence stereotypes formed indirect pathways to subsequent attitudes towards older adults more widely. Study 8 examined care workers positively and negatively experienced intergenerational contact with care home residents. Although care workers experienced more positive than negative contact, negative (but not positive) contact was associated with their attitudes towards care home residents and it generalised to older adults more widely. This indirect effect of negative contact to older adults was effective only for subtle and not blatant ageist attitudes.
Overall, the thesis provides a range of evidence suggesting that intergroup contact theory can be successfully applied to the reduction of ageism. It presents a detailed overview of current knowledge, corroborates existing evidence and presents novel findings for extended contact and mediators of both direct and indirect intergenerational contact.
Lamont, R. (2015). Older People’s Responses to Age Stereotypes: Implications for Performance Outcomes, and Health and Well-Being.
Age stereotypes are the different and often negative expectations and attitudes held by individuals about a given age group. Not only can age stereotyping lead to the unequal treatment of older people through differences in affective (age prejudice) and behavioural responses (age discrimination) toward them, but older people's own reactions to these stereotypes can have negative and damaging consequences. This thesis addresses the extent to which older adults' responses to negative age stereotypes impact on their performance on tests, and their health and well-being, further increasing age-based inequalities. Chapters 1 to 4, the introduction and theoretical chapters, introduce the thesis and the background for the subsequent studies. Areas reviewed include that of age stereotyping, how this may reflect negatively upon older adults' social identities, 'stereotype threat' as a specific response to this and evidence that perceiving ageism is associated with worse health and well-being in later life. Having identified research gaps, Chapter 5 then presents Study 1 (N = 105) which addresses the question of whether people are conscious of being judged negatively because of their age, what age stereotypes they are most conscious of and in what settings they believe they are applied. Findings confirmed that adults (particularly those aged 18-69) have a strong awareness of age-based judgement and that adults aged 60+ in particular are concerned about negative stereotypes of their competencies in a range of domains. Chapters 6 to 8 present studies 2, 3 and 4 which aimed to extend 'stereotype threat' research (Steele & Aronson, 1995). Stereotype threat theory posits that stigmatised individuals may fear confirming negative stereotypes about their social group. This negative experience ironically disrupts performance making it more likely that they act in line with negative stereotypes. Study 2, a meta-analysis including 82 effect sizes (N = 3882) split into multiple analyses, confirmed that age stereotypes have the potential to negatively impact older adults' memory and cognitive performance through age-based stereotype threat (ABST). Building on the findings from the meta-analysis, Study 3 experimentally tested whether uncertainty surrounding stereotype-based judgement explains why more subtle stereotype-based cues to stereotype threat have a greater impact on performance than fact-based cues, as was found in Study 2. Further, Study 4 examined whether the presence of a young observer or the giving of help to older participants might cue ABST and negatively impact maths performance. Although the hypotheses derived from stereotype threat theory were not supported by studies 3 and 4, these studies contribute to the stereotype threat literature by examining the potential everyday cues to ABST and the mechanisms through which it occurs. Finally, Chapter 9 presents Study 5 which uses survey data to examine different reactions-threat or challenge responses-to perceived ageism and whether these responses are associated with better or worse subjective health and well-being. Findings suggest that challenge responses may be a more adaptive reaction to ageism, with potential benefits for health and well-being in later life. Overall, the thesis highlights the damaging effects of older adults' threat responses to negative attitudes to ageing. Both negative societal attitudes and the way older people respond to and cope with negative stereotyping need to be addressed.