Prejudice And Stereotypic Thinking Among The Elderly

1001 words - 5 pages

Prejudice and stereotypic thinking among the elderly
The term stereotype is often connected with ignorant beliefs such as “racism”, “homophobia”, and “sexism”. Despite the overtly negative connotation, stereotypes are simply expectations we hold about groups of people (Moskowitz, 2005, p.440). However, stereotyping can lead to prejudice. Although everyone stereotypes, some people are more prone to being prejudice than others, especially older individuals (Radvansky et al., 2010). It is widely held that the link between age and prejudice is attributed to the fact that older people grew up in a more prejudiced era, and their attitudes are a reflection of a less tolerant time. However, recent ...view middle of the document...

In a second experiment, high and low prejudice groups were asked to list their thoughts on African Americans anonymously. Analysis found that 60% of high prejudice individuals listed hostility related themes. In contrast, only 9% of low prejudice participants included hostility themes. The results indicate that while stereotypes are automatically triggered, low prejudice individuals actively inhibited those thoughts and replace them with more egalitarian beliefs. The change in zeitgeist following Devine’s study paved the way for a reexamination of the link between aging and prejudice.
According to many classic theorists, older people are more likely to be prejudiced because they hold more stereotypic beliefs (Radvansky et al., 2010). However, Devine’s 1989 study showed that there could be an alternate explanation to the correlation between age and prejudice. The hypothesis that elderly people exhibit greater prejudiced due to a deficit in the ability to inhibit stereotypes was explored in a study by von Hippel, Silver, & Lynch (2000). Young adults and elderly participants were asked to read only the italicized sentences in a paragraph to measure inhibitory ability. They were then administered scales designed to measure subtle forms of racism, and the desire to suppress prejudice. The results showed that inhibitory ability diminished with age, and low inhibition was correlated with higher scores on the prejudice scale. Surprisingly, the scientists discovered that age was positively correlated with the motivation to control prejudice. The findings suggests that although the elderly are more motivated than younger people to control their prejudices, their diminished inhibitory ability results in increased prejudice. Thus, Devine’s inhibition theory of prejudice was further supported, and a new theory about the relationship between aging and prejudice was introduced.
Although the study by von Hippel, Silver, & Lynch (2000) provided evidence for inhibitory ability as a mediator of increased prejudice in older adults, there still remained the question of where in the information processing sequence inhibition of stereotypes occurred. A study by Radvansky et al. (2010) examined the possibility that stereotypic inferences and subsequent inhibition occurred at the point of...

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