Prejudice and Stereotypic Thinking Among the Elderly

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Prejudice and stereotypic thinking among the elderly
The term stereotype is often connected with ignorant beliefs such as “racism”, “homophobia”, and “sexism”. Despite the overtly negative connotation, stereotypes are simply expectations we hold about groups of people (Moskowitz, 2005, p.440). However, stereotyping can lead to prejudice. Although everyone stereotypes, some people are more prone to being prejudice than others, especially older individuals (Radvansky et al., 2010). It is widely held that the link between age and prejudice is attributed to the fact that older people grew up in a more prejudiced era, and their attitudes are a reflection of a less tolerant time. However, recent studies suggest otherwise. Inspired by Devine’s influential 1989 study showing that prejudice is caused by a failure to inhibit stereotypic thoughts, modern researchers theorize that a decline in inhibitory function causes older people to be more likely to make and maintain stereotypes. For years, the dominant belief was that prejudice is inevitable as long as stereotypes exist because it was thought that stereotypes are automatically applied to a social group (Devine, 1989). However, this theory does not explain why knowledge of a stereotype is not correlated with prejudice. A study conducted by Devine in 1989 resolved the discrepancy by proposing that while stereotypes are automatically activated, prejudice is due to a failure to inhibit stereotypic thoughts. In the first experiment, white participants were subliminally flashed a list where either 80% or 20% of words were related to African American stereotypes. They were then asked to read about and rate an individual. Although the word hostile was never flashed, both low and high prejudice participants judged the individual to be hostile if they were presented with stereotype related words 80% of the time. The…...

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