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Chapter 7


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Michael Inzlicht

PSYC12 WINTER 2013 CHAPTER 7: AGEISM INTRODUCTION  People have stereotypes of others based on the perceived or actual age of the target individual (like driving)  Ageism: stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination based on age based on Butler (1969) o Happens to more the elderly, but juvenile ageism does exists  Chapter objectives  origins of ageism, cross-cultural differences in attitudes toward older persons and young people, the effects of ageism on the target individual, the accuracy of age stereotypes, and ways to reduce ageist thinking about others WHY AGEISM? (AND WHAT ABOUT OTHER “-ISMS?”  Ageism is given special chapter are threefold o Baby boomers are a large spike in the gradual rise of the American population therefore it is easy to focus on this segment of the population which has a huge impact on trends and future of society as a whole o Relative lack of attention it has received from researcher who specialize in the study of stereotyping - age is not as salient as an important factor influencing social behaviors to researchers as many of them are aging baby boomers themselves o Aging processes represents a unique set of factors for researchers in prejudice and stereotyping – members of an outgroup will eventually become part of an in group DOES AGEISM REALLY EXIST?  Ever since the 1950s, researchers have had data indicating that society as a whole has a negative view of aging and older people  At the same time, equal number of researchers have found little evidence for pervasive ageist attitudes in America  Problem with psychological studies of ageism because there have been two approaches in dealing with how to measure ageism o General impressions of older people – more negative o Attitudes toward specific older individuals – more positive  Different conceptions of older people are evoked when one accesses a generic prototype of older people (often a vague, negative impression, formed by years of exposure to subtle and pervasive stereotypes vs. one of a specific older person where it is more difficult to recall confirmatory evidence of a negative stereotype and the overall impression is often a positive one then  People are probably able to have two conflicting ideas of older people because they partake in sub categorization because stereotypes are difficult to abandon due to their efficiency but in the face of dissident information, sub categories are created to tackle this issue  Brewer et al o People have a generally negative view of the superordinate category “older people” but they have several subcategories for bolder people PSYC12 WINTER 2013 o Found that when one encounters an elderly individual, information about the elderly individual, information about the elderly person tends to be organized in terms of these subcategories and not according to the subordinate age category o When we do not have further specific information that allows us to place the individual in a subcategory, the superordinate category is used as a kind of default for thinking about the individual o Schmit and Boland found out that people had a mixture of negative subcategories and positive subcategories for the elderly but TWICE as many NEGATIVE vs. POSITIVE subcategories o Negative: Despondent, mildly impaired, vulnerable for example o Positive: Sage, Perfect Grandparent, Liberal Matriarch/Patriarch  In sum, people have a more negative attitude toward older people than towards younger people however people have multiple, often contradictory views of older people  One’s attitude of specific older people is mainly positive and more negative and stereotyped of older people as a group Age Stereotypes: Content and Use o The fact that US society has far fewer positive terms for older people indicates the presence of a strong individual and institutional ageism o Butler has distinguished two types of ageism o Benign ageism: subtle type of prejudice that arises out of the conscious and unconscious fears and anxiety one has of growing old o Malignant ageism is a more pernicious stereotyping process in which older people are regarded as worthless o Stereotypes of the elderly ageist that older people are tired slow, ill, forgetful, uninformed, isolated and unproductive. o Research suggests that Americans see older adults as warm but incompetent and this brings about treatment based on pity and not respect o Ageism is one of the most unnoticed and socially condoned forms of prejudice POSITIVE ATTITUDES AND POSITIVE STEREOTYPES o Some research suggests that attitudes in society are changing and becoming more positive of older people o Bell found that media, especially TV portrayals of older people have changed in positive ways over the decade and these positive stereotypes/views are an improvement and help to reverse the past negative stereotypes of older people o Positive Ageism: prejudice and discrimination in favored of the aged o Older people are assumed to need special care, treatment or economic assistance o Palmore identified 8 common positive stereotypes people have of older people o Kind, happy, wise, dependable, affluent, politically powerful, more freedom, trying to retain their youth o Older people are as likely as younger people to have these characteristics o This is much evidence that well intentioned positive stereotypes of older people – pseudo positive attitudes – can lead to patronizing language and behavior toward older people and a loss of self-esteem in older persons PSYC12 WINTER 2013 EFFECTS OF PSEUDOPOSITIVE ATTITUDES Patronizing Language o People with very positive attitudes toward older people often seem to communicate with older people according to negative stereotypes about older persons o Two major types of negative communication o Over accommodation: younger individuals become overly polite, speak louder and slower, exaggerate their intonation, have a higher pitch, and talk in simple sentences with elders – based on the stereotype that older people have hearing problems, decreasing intellect, and slower cognitive functioning  Downplaying of serious thoughts, concerns and feeling expressed by older people o Baby Talk: a more negative, condescending form of over accommodation; simplified speech register with high pitch and exaggerated intonation  Secondary baby talk if it is given to adults  Experiment asked participants to differentiate between the two types of baby talk but they were not able to  Exaggerated tone, simplified speech and high pitch of the talk was similar between the two o Caporeal, Lukaszewski, and Culbertson  Older people with lower functional abilities preferred secondary baby talk over default speech vs. higher cognitive and social functioning older person who found secondary baby talk to be disrespectful, condescending and humiliating  Based on stereotype that all older people have deficits in cognitive abilities and therefore need special communication at a slower, simpler level  Cross-cultural research also indicates that both primary and secondary baby talk appear to be universal occurring in preliterate societies as well as modern industrialized cities Patronizing Behavior o Appearance provides a cue to trigger stereotypes of older people, people regard old age as time of decreased function and ability o Infantilization: Belief that elders are like children because of their inferior (to young and middle-aged adults) mental and physical ability o Do not consider their thoughts/opinion as those of young or middle-aged adults o When offering someone to walk the street for instance, people often forget the experience of the recipient who might feel angrier, hurt or a loss of self-esteem o People with high self esteem are much less likely to request help than those with lower self esteem o In sum, patronizing behavior and even well-intended offers of assistance can have negative consequences fore the self esteem of the older individual Effects of Pseudo positive Attitudes on Older People o According to Arluke and Levin, infantilization creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in that older people come to accept and believe that they are no longer independent, PSYC12 WINTER 2013 contributing adults leading to loss of self esteem (feeling like one is a useful, valued member of society) in an older person occurs gradually over the course of their life as they are exposed to society’s subtle/non subtle infantilization of older people o When older people come to believe and act according to their age myths and stereortypes, stereotypes and treatment are maintained and reinforced o Three negative consequences occur when older people accept the role and childish behavior that accompanies such acceptance o Social status of older people is diminished through the decrease in responsibility and increased dependency o When society sees childlike behavior in an older person, it may feel justified in its use of psychoactive medication, institutionalization, or declarations of legal incompetency o Political power of older people is reduced when older people come to believe their ability and impact on society is limited o The cumulative effect of hearing from others that one is old will eventually bring about corresponding changes in behavior and an self-image in the older individual via a self-fulfilling prophecy effect o Study by Levy, Slade, Kunkel and Kasl found that older people who had more positive self perception about aging lived 7.5 years longer than those who a more negative self-perception of aging o Studies also show that anxiety and negative expectancies directed at an older target lead that target to also feel anxiety and generalized negative affect and to suffer performance deficits as a result o Older victims of patronizing talk are also seen by their elder cohort as helpless, weak and less alert – why does this happen o Easiest way to protect one’s self esteem is to keep that group in high regard and the best way to do this is to derogate the unusual member and distinguish them from the group as a nonmember or a rare aberration o According to Atchley, aging effects us three ways o One develops a stable self concept that grows more stable over time  Snyder has found that as one gets older, one’s self-monitoring scores drop, indicating a more stable, coherent self o Second, the reduction in the social roles one has as one gets older reduces the possibility for conflict between various aspects of the self o Aging is not a difficult period of working to develop oneself but is a time of simply maintaining one’s self, roles, and abilities o What predicts vulnerability to ageism, resulting in lower self-esteem among some older persons o Atchley (1982) suggests that a likely factor is the lack of adequate defenses for the self o Some people never develop a firm concept of their self and they are left feeling confused and acting inconsistently, these people cannot test who they are and therefore are vulnerable to negative information about themselves o Atchley also notes two other factors that contribute to a low self-esteem among elders – loss of physical capacity and loss of control over one’s environment AGEISM IN THE HELPING PROFESSIONS o Research has shown that counselors, educators, and other professionals are just as likely as others to be prejudiced against older people PSYC12 WINTER 2013 o Reyes Oritiz – physicians see older patients in a negative stereotypical light o Levenson – medical students attitudes have reflected a prejudice against older persons surpassed only by their racial prejudice, diseases associated with old age are not seen as important because they are seen as natural parts of the aging process o Treatment for older people by psychologists shows evidence of stereotypes and ageist views o Even when presenting with the same symptoms, older persons are less likely to be referred for psychiatric assessments o Ford and Sbordonne, 1980: Psychiatrists more likely to recommend drug therapy than psychotherapy for the treatment of depression o It may be the case that therapists are more influenced by misconceptions about normal aging processes and thus, ageist thinking can be addressed in clinical training with increased emphasis on understanding the normal and abnormal aspects of the aging process o Grant suggests several ways the elements of age bias and healthiest need to be changed in the health provider community o Continually assess their own attitudes against older people o Confront ageism and healthism where it arises o Institute geriatrics programs in hospitals and mental health practices o Integrate into their training, a thorough knowledge of healthism and ageism o Professionals need to understand the flexibility of aging and the heterogeneity of older people as an age category ORIGINS OF AGEISM o Gerontophobia: Irrational fear, hatred, and/or hostility toward older people due to fear of one’s own aging and death o Ageism may also be increasing along with the quality of medical care because death no longer appears to strike at any age, old age is a marker of death then Age Grading in Society o Age grading, also known as age stratification, of society communicates implicit and explicit expectations (age norms) about behaviors that are expected and appropriate at various ages o Gerontocratic societies – cultures where older people are held in the highest respect and hold positions of power and leadership – usually primitive cultures o This is not the case in the US where the middle-aged are more likely to hold more respect and power than younger and older persons From Sage to Burden o In most prehistoric and agrarian societies, older people were often held in high regard, holding positions of power, respect and high social status o This was true in Western society but from 1770-1850, there was a great change in attitude toward older people o As people lived longer, younger society was not prepared to deal with the new large population of elders so old was starting to be associated with negative qualities –see as non productive burdens to society PSYC12 WINTER 2013 o As a result of the change toward a youth-oriented culture that coincided with the industrial revolution, older people no longer had a productive, valued role in society and ageism was institutionalized with forced retirement at age 65 o For many older people, depression often sets in when they believe that because they are no longer employed; they are a worthless burden to society. Modernization o According to the theory of Modernization, older people have lost prestige
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