Lecture 9: Ageism and Sexism
Definition: Stereotypes, prejudice, & discrimination based on age
This is a stereotype that isn’t hidden from view – you don’t really have to look for it.
Facets of Ageism
Although largely applied to older adults, can also apply to the young—juvenile ageism
• By 18-20, you’re physically/mentally an adult – but there are still rules about what
we can do
o USA, you can enlist at 18 but can’t drink until you’re 21
Importance of studying elderly:
• Elderly population will double by 2030
Unlike other prejudices, elderly are out-group that will one day (hopefully!) become in-
What Form Does Ageism Take?
• Baby talk
• Condescending treatment
• Assumption of physical and mental deterioration
Purdue & Gurtman (1990)
• Do people have negative associations with elderly?
• If so, are these associations implicit/automatic?
• Evaluative priming task
• “Old” vs. “Young” subliminally primed (55 ms) • Positive vs. Negative traits presented after prime
• DV: RT to words (faster RT = stronger association)
• Negative words are more associated with old than with young
• Positive words are less associated with old than with young
• Is this out-group bias?
o We might just be applying good things to young because of ingroup bias,
not necessarily out-group bias
• What does this have to do with people?
o It could be done with items, really
o It’s not like they’re showing elderly faces
iClicker question and answer: What are the problems with the Gurtman et al. study on
implicit attitude towards the elderly?
• Results may not generalize to social evaluations
Origins of Ageism
Societal age grading
• Unitil university, we’re constantly with classes with those who our age – in school,
grade 12 wouldn’t associated with a grade 9
• Below and above age discounts on products
Dominance of youth culture
• Advertisements are geared towards younger people because o May have more disposable income
o Get lifelong purchaser
• Not hard to find jokes about elderly in ads
Fear of Death
• Scared on elderly because they remind us that we’re closer to death
• Create as much psychological distance between us and them
We will all die!
No one wants to think about this eventuality
Martens et al. (2004)
Given instinct for self-preservation, people want to deny death or reminders of death
People find elderly threatening because they are reminders of own death
Elderly out-group bias (ageism) is product of this mortality salience
Self-stereotype: Internalization of societal beliefs about the traits associated with one’s
Development of ageist self-stereotypes
• Ubiquity of elderly stereotypes (even among children)
• Elderly stereotypes can operate below awareness
• When young become old, and identify with elderly in-group, the stereotype that
was held for a lifetime becomes self-stereotype
Effects of ageist self-stereotypes (Levy, 2003; Levy, 2009)
Longitudinal studies show that people (18-49 years) with positive self-perceptions-of-
• Reported better health up to 20-40 years later
o Fewer heart attacks, strokes, angina, etc.
• Lived 7.5 years longer
o Low cholesterol and exercise improve lifespan by 4 years Implications
• Mental & physical deterioration is not inevitable; can be self-fulfilling
o It’s going to happen but we can make it worse by dreading it
• People may not be aware of effects of self-stereotypes
iClicker question and answer: according to