Instructional manipulations and age differences in memory: Now you see them, now you dont

Two studies examined the role of stereotype threat in accounting for memory deficits in older adults. Younger (average age = 19.5 & 19.3 years, respectively) and older participants (average age = 69.4 years, range = 61-75 & 67.8, 60-74, respectively) completed a memory task under instructions that either emphasized (e.g., "we are interested in how good your memory is") or de-emphasized (e.g., "we are interested in your ability to learn facts") that memory was being assessed. Participants were presented with trivia statements, told which statements were true and which were false, and, after a delay, completed a recognition memory test for true versus false statements. Older adults performed worse than young adults under the instructions that emphasized memory, but they performed as well as the young adults in the memory de-emphasized condition. These studies demonstrate that when negative stereotypes about aging and memory are highlighted, memory performance can be negatively affected.

Rahhal, T. A., Hasher, L., & Colcombe, S. J. (2001). Instructional manipulations and age differences in memory: Now you see them, now you dont. Psychology and Aging, 16, 697706.

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