John Libbey Eurotext

Gériatrie et Psychologie Neuropsychiatrie du Vieillissement

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Ageism and overestimation of cognitive difficulties in older people: a review Volume 14, issue 2, Juin 2016

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Authors
Unité de psychologie de la sénescence, Université de Liège, Belgique
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Stigmatization related to age (i.e., ageism) is a widespread phenomenon in the modern industrial societies where older people are perceived as cognitively incompetent. Therefore negative stereotypes about age-related cognitive decline may have a detrimental influence on older adults on their cognitive performance. The aim of the present review is to understand how stereotypes can influence the performance of the elderly on cognitive tests. We first describe the stereotype threat phenomenon by providing an overview of situations likely to produce stereotype threat, as well as contextual and personal characteristics that moderate its effects. Possible mechanisms underlying these influences on cognitive performance are also presented. Secondly, we address self-stereotyping, which explains long-term negative effects of stereotypes and their unconscious influence on older adults’ cognitive performance. However, some age stereotypes have also positive effects on aged people, as shown by some studies describing such beneficial effects of positive stereotypes on cognitive performance. Finally we try to understand why negative age stereotyping has a much stronger influence on important behavioral outcomes among older adults than does positive age stereotyping. Given all these results, we examine how negative age stereotypesmay impact older adults’ cognitive performance in real-world settings such as during a cognitive assessment.