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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2012 Jul;67(4):432-6. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbr120. Epub 2011 Nov 4.

Memory shaped by age stereotypes over time.

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Yale School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8034, USA.



Previous studies showed that negative self-stereotypes detrimentally affect the cognitive performance of marginalized group members; however, these findings were confined to short-term experiments. In the present study, we considered whether stereotypes predicted memory over time, which had not been previously examined. We also considered whether self-relevance increased the influence of stereotypes on memory over time.


Multiple waves of memory performance were analyzed using individual growth models. The sample consisted of 395 participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.


Those with more negative age stereotypes demonstrated significantly worse memory performance over 38 years than those with less negative age stereotypes, after adjusting for relevant covariates. The decline in memory performance for those aged 60 and above was 30.2% greater for the more negative age stereotype group than for the less negative age stereotype group. Also, the impact of age stereotypes on memory was significantly greater among those for whom the age stereotypes were self-relevant.


This study shows that the adverse influence of negative self-stereotypes on cognitive performance is not limited to a short-term laboratory effect. Rather, the findings demonstrate, for the first time, that stereotypes also predict memory performance over an extended period in the community.

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