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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Jun;64(4):482-6. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbp044. Epub 2009 May 29.

Task demands moderate stereotype threat effects on memory performance.

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Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7801, USA.


Previous research has demonstrated that older adults' memory performance is adversely affected by the explicit activation of negative stereotypes about aging. In this study, we examined the impact of stereotype threat on recognition memory, with specific interest in (a) the generalizability of previously observed effects, (b) the subjective experience of memory, and (c) the moderating effects of task demands. Older participants subjected to threat performed worse than did those in a nonthreat condition but only when performance constraints were high (i.e., memory decisions had to be made within a limited time frame). This effect was reflected in the subjective experience of memory, with participants in this condition having a lower ratio of "remember" to "know" responses. The absence of threat effects when constraints were minimal provides important boundary information regarding stereotype influences on memory performance.

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