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Exp Aging Res. 2009 Apr-Jun;35(2):153-77. doi: 10.1080/03610730802716413.

Moderators of and mechanisms underlying stereotype threat effects on older adults' memory performance.

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Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7650, USA.


Recent research has suggested that negative stereotypes about aging may have a detrimental influence on older adults' memory performance. This study sought to determine whether stereotype-based influences were moderated by age, education, and concerns about being stigmatized. Possible mechanisms underlying these influences on memory performance were also explored. The memory performance of adults aged 60 to 70 years and 71 to 82 years was examined under conditions designed to induce or eliminate stereotype threat. Threat was found to have a greater impact on performance in the young-old than in the old-old group, whereas the opposite was observed for the effects of stigma consciousness. In both cases, the effects were strongest for those with higher levels of education. Further analyses found little evidence in support of the mediating roles of affective responses or working memory. The only evidence of mediation was found with respect to recall predictions, suggesting a motivational basis of threat effects on performance. These findings highlight the specificity of stereotype threat effects in later adulthood as well as possible mechanisms underlying such effects.

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