Send to

Choose Destination
Psychol Sci. 2014 Dec;25(12):2127-35. doi: 10.1177/0956797614551970. Epub 2014 Oct 17.

Subliminal strengthening: improving older individuals' physical function over time with an implicit-age-stereotype intervention.

Author information

Social and Behavioral Sciences Division, School of Public Health, Yale University
Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Yale University.
Department of Demography, University of California, Berkeley Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley.
Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, Yale University.


Negative age stereotypes that older individuals assimilate from their culture predict detrimental outcomes, including worse physical function. We examined, for the first time, whether positive age stereotypes, presented subliminally across multiple sessions in the community, would lead to improved outcomes. Each of 100 older individuals (age=61-99 years, M=81) was randomly assigned to an implicit-positive-age-stereotype-intervention group, an explicit-positive-age-stereotype-intervention group, a combined implicit- and explicit-positive-age-stereotype-intervention group, or a control group. Interventions occurred at four 1-week intervals. The implicit intervention strengthened positive age stereotypes, which strengthened positive self-perceptions of aging, which, in turn, improved physical function. The improvement in these outcomes continued for 3 weeks after the last intervention session. Further, negative age stereotypes and negative self-perceptions of aging were weakened. For all outcomes, the implicit intervention's impact was greater than the explicit intervention's impact. The physical-function effect of the implicit intervention surpassed a previous study's 6-month-exercise-intervention's effect with participants of similar ages. The current study's findings demonstrate the potential of directing implicit processes toward physical-function enhancement over time.


age stereotypes; aging; implicit; intervention; physical function; self-perceptions of aging; stereotypes

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center