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Chapter 7

Chapter 7 Psychology of Prejudice Book

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Michael Inzlicht

Chapter 7 – Ageism Ageism – refer to stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination based on age Juvenile ageism – a type of ageism that discriminates young people 1. Why Ageism? (And What about Other “-Isms”?) 1.1. The number of people over age 65 is expected to double by the year 2030 1.2. Main reason is the baby boomers are getting older 1.3. Three reasons why ageism is important to the study of prejudice 1.3.1.The baby boomers represent a spike in the rise of American population. Because they represent such a significant segment of our population, our society caters to them. (E.g., when most baby boomers are 40 years old, companies cater to them by advertising expensive, material goods) 1.3.2.Ageism lacks attention from social psychologists. Most psychology textbooks do not talk about or talk about ageism in an inaccurate fashion. This might be because most psychologists are baby boomers themselves and does not realize the importance 1.3.3.Ageism is unique and distinct from other “isms” such as racism and sexism because those are more or less permanent categories, whereas ageism is a process that everyone experiences. I.e., the young (outgroup) will become the old (ingroup) 2. Does Ageism Really Exist? 2.1. Whether ageism is a real phenomenon in social psychology is controversial and debateable 2.1.1.Typically, people have ageist thoughts toward old people in general. However when specific old person is named (e.g., grandparents or professor), people tend to show positive attitudes toward them, sometimes even more positive than the young 2.1.2.Different conceptions of “older people” are evoked when one accesses a generic prototype of older people 2.1.3.This is due to subcategorization. People are cognitive misers, i.e., they use stereotypes because it is fast and consumes very little cognitive energy. When faced with cognitive dissonance of having a negative attitude toward older people in general and having an older friend, people may be inclined to create a subcategory for their friend or relative. This allows them to get rid of cognitive dissonance 2.1.4.When we do not have a subcategory to put someone into, the superordinate category is used as a kind of default for thinking about the individual 2.1.5.People tend to have multiple, often contradictory, views of older people 3. Age Stereotypes: Content and Use 3.1. There are 2 types of ageism: benign and malignant ageism 3.1.1.Benign ageism – subtle type of prejudice that arises out of the conscious and unconscious fears and anxiety one has of growing old 3.1.2.Malignant ageism – more pernicious stereotyping process in which older people are regarded as worthless 3.1.3.Benign ageism is much more common 3.2. In American society, old age is perceived as being virtually synonymous with decline and loss of physical and mental capacities 3.3. Americans regard older adults as “warm but incompetent”. Such perceptions lead them to treat older people with pity, but not respect 3.4. Ageism is one of the most unnoticed and socially condoned forms of prejudice 4. Positive Attitudes and Positive Stereotypes 4.1. Stereotypes and attitudes toward older people in the media have become increasingly positive. These positive stereotypes of older people are an improvement and that they help to reverse the past negative stereotypes of older people 4.2. However, positive stereotypes are indicative of “positive ageism”, which is prejudice and discrimination in favour of the aged 4.3. It assumes that older people are in need of special care, treatment, or economic assistance 4.4. Essentially, any special discounts or treatments that are available only to older persons and not to younger individuals constitute age discrimination 4.5. Some positive stereotypes of older people: kind, happy, wise, dependable, affluent, politically powerful 4.6. Positive stereotypes of older people can lead to pseudopositive attitudes – which is essentially patronizing language and behaviour toward older people and a loss of self-esteem in older persons 5. Effects of Pseudopositive Attitudes 5.1. Patronizing Language 5.1.1.Two major types of negative communication have been identified: Overaccommodation – younger individuals become overly polite, speak louder and slower, exaggerate their intonation, have a higher pitch, and talk in simple sentences with elders Baby talk – it is a simplified speech register with high pitch and exaggerated intonation. People often use it to talk to babies but such intonation is also used when talking to pets, inanimate objects and adults Elder people with lower functional abilities prefer baby talk to other types of speech. However, elders with higher cognitive functioning find this disrespectful Baby talk is ageist and insulting because it connotes a dependency relationship; the target of the secondary baby talk is dependent on the speaker 5.1.2.Patronizing Behaviour As we get older, our movement and reflexes may become slower, our hair turns grey, our skin becomes more wrinkled, and our sight and hearing may begin to worsen Infantilization – belief that elders are like children because of their inferior mental and physical ability A simple behaviour such as a group of girl scouts assisting an elderly person cross the street may be construed negatively by the recipient. The elder may believe they are being perceived as incompetent, unable, or otherwise impaired To sum up – patronizing behaviour and even well-intended offers of assistance can have negative consequences for the self-esteem of the older individual 5.1.3.Effects of Pseudopositive Attitudes on Older People Infantilization creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in that older people come to accept and believe that they are no longer independent, contributing adults When older people come to believe and act according to these age myths and stereotypes, such stereotypes and treatment are maintained and reinforced Older people are faced with three negative consequences when they accept such a role: Social status of older people is diminished through the decrease in responsibility and increased dependency When society sees childlike behaviour in an older person, it may feel justified in its use of psychoactive medication The political power of older people is reduced when older people come to believe their ability on society is limited The cumulative effect of hearing from others that one is old will eventually bring about corresponding changes in behaviour and an self-image in the older individual via a self-fulfilling prophecy effect This negative self-perception can have strong connection to one’s overall physical health Research has found that elder adults targets of overaccommodation appear to “instantly age” in that they look, talk, move, think, and sound older When older people interact with young people, they generally feel negative affect. This makes sense if we consider how we derive our “self”, which is through social interactions and the feedback about our self that others give us i.e., when an older person hears about others talking about their decreased abilities, they may start to believe it themselves Older person tend to view one of their own ingroup victims as weak, helpless, and less alert, as a young ageist might have viewed. This is because due to the social-identity theory, part of one’s self- esteem is derived from group memberships. In order to hold the group in high regard, it is necessary for members to derogate the odd ingroup members Why would old people have higher self-esteem than high school students? Because aging affects the self in 3 ways: One develops a stable self-concept. As one gets older, one’s self-monitoring scores drop, indicating a more stable, coherent self Reduction in the social roles one has as one gets older reduces the possibility for conflict between various aspects of the self Aging is not a difficult period of working to develop oneself but a time to simply maintain one’s self, roles, and abilities Thus the question becomes, how do some old people become vulnerable? The likely factor is the lack of adequate defenses for the self, loss of physical capacity, and loss of control over one’s environment 6. Ageism in the Helping Professions 6.1. Professions that assist the elderly, such as physicians, often view elders in a very stereotypically negative way. Research found that medical students were significantly more likely to recommend breast-conserving and reconstruction therapeutic options for younger than for older patients. Doctors all too often think that because old age is unstoppable, illnesses that accompany old age are not that important 6.2. Treatment of older people by psychologists also shows evidence of stereotypes and ageist views. E.g., older patients are more likely to be treated with drugs rather than psychotherapies. 7. Origins of Ageism 7.1. Gerontophobia – irrational fear, hatred, and/or hostility toward older people 7.1.1.it is the fear of one’s own aging and of death 7.2. Age Grading of Society 7.2.1.Age grading (or age stratification) – implicit and explicit expectations communicated via society about behaviours that are expected and appropriate at various ages E.g., age to vote, age to drink, age to drive 7.2.2.Gerontocratic societies – societies that hold older people in the highest respect and older people hold positions of power and leadership; tend to be more primitive cultures 7.3. From Sage to Burden 7.3.1.In most prehistoric and agrarian societies, older people were often held in high regard, holding positions of power, respect, and high social status 7.3.2.However, the time period between 1770 and 1850 heralded a changing attitude toward older people. As great advances were made in medicine, people lived longer, and this created a new, large population of elders that the younger society was not prepared to deal with 7.3.3.Associated with this, old age was viewed with negative qualities, and older people were seen no longer as wise teachers, but as non-productive burdens 7.3.4.Two major theories that speak to the origins of negative attitude toward older people: modernization and idealism 7.3.5.Modernization Older people have lost prestige and respect as society has become modernized After modernization, the fundamental structure of society changed, no longer a strong emphasis on close ties with extended family, only with nuclear family Retirement became popular and part of society’s way of focusing the efforts of society on youthful, strong, and fast workers 7.3.6.Idealism According to this theory, the increasingly negative attitudes toward older people did not come about with the industrial revolution, but between 1770 and 1840, when the American and French revolution took place These revolutions demanded equality and liberty. No longer wer
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