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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2003 Jan;58(1):P3-11.

The impact of stereotype threat on age differences in memory performance.

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Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27695, USA.


This study investigated the hypothesis that age differences in memory performance may be influenced by stereotype threat associated with negative cultural beliefs about the impact of aging on memory. Recall was examined in 48 young and 48 older adults under conditions varying in the degree of induced threat. Conditions that maximize threat resulted in lower performance in older adults relative to both younger adults and to older adults who did not experience threat. The degree to which threat affected older adults' performance increased along with the value that these individuals placed on their memory ability. Older adults' memory performance across experimental conditions was observed to covary with degree of activation of the negative aging stereotype, providing support for the hypothesized relationship between stereotype activation and performance. Finally, stereotype threat also influenced mnemonic strategy use, which in turn partially mediated the impact of threat on recall. These results emphasize the important role played by contextual factors in determining age differences in memory performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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