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PLoS One. 2017 Nov 8;12(11):e0187805. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187805. eCollection 2017.

Feeling younger and identifying with older adults: Testing two routes to maintaining well-being in the face of age discrimination.

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Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Integrating the social identity and aging literatures, this work tested the hypothesis that there are two independent, but simultaneous, responses by which adults transitioning into old age can buffer themselves against age discrimination: an individual response, which entails adopting a younger subjective age when facing discrimination, and a collective response, which involves increasing identification with the group of older adults. In three experimental studies with a total number of 488 older adults (50 to 75 years of age), we manipulated age discrimination in a job application scenario and measured the effects of both responses on perceived health and self-esteem. Statistical analyses include individual study results as well as a meta-analysis on the combined results of the three studies. Findings show consistent evidence only for the individual response, which was in turn associated with well-being. Furthermore, challenging previous research, the two responses (adopting a younger subjective age and increasing group identification) were not only theoretically, but also empirically distinct. This research complements prior research by signaling the value of considering both responses to discrimination as complementary rather than mutually exclusive.

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