Reducing the burden of stereotype threat eliminates age differences in memory distortion, Psychological Science, 22

This paper investigated the influence of stereotype threat false-memory susceptibility in younger (ages 18-22; N = 64) compared with older (ages 60-74; N = 64) adults. Participants completed an incidental learning task where they were presented with lists of words and asked to rate each word for pleasantness. Upon completing the incidental learning task, they completed a task to disrupt short-term memory and then received the stereotype threat manipulation. Half of the participants read a paragraph describing research that has demonstrated age-related declines in memory (stereotype threat for older adults) or a paragraph about language-processing research (control). They then completed a test of recognition accuracy (i.e., asked to indicate which of a set of words had and had not appeared in the earlier incidental learning task) along with confidence estimates for each judgment. Results showed that older adults had more false alarms (i.e., indicating that a previously unseen word had, in fact, appeared in the incidental learning task) than young adults in the stereotype threat condition, but there were no differences between age groups in the control condition. Moreover, older adults operating under stereotype threat had higher confidence in their false alarms than the other groups. These findings show age-related increases in susceptibility to false-memories under stereotype threat.

Thomas, A.K., & Dubois, S.J. (2011). Reducing the burden of stereotype threat eliminates age differences in memory distortion, Psychological Science, 22(12), 1515-1517.

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