Regulatory focus moderates the influence of age-related stereotypic expectancies on older adults test performance and threat-based concerns

This paper investigated age-related stereotypes involving driving ability in a sample of Belgian adults aged 55-70 (N = 61; 28 women, 33 men). Participants completed a questionnaire about their age, gender, and the distance they drove per week. They then read a newspaper-type article that reviewed evidence from a supposed study suggesting either that older drivers are worse (stereotype threat) or better (stereotype boost) drivers than young people. Participants then answered questions regarding driving knowledge under one of two conditions. Half of participants completed the test under instructions that emphasized achieving gains and avoiding non-gains (i.e., a promotion focus). The other half of participants completed the test with instructions emphasizing avoiding losses and achieving non-losses (i.e., a prevention focus). Specifically, participants in the promotion condition received one point for each item solved correctly, whereas participants in the prevention condition lost one point for a wrong or missing answer. Participants in the prevention focus condition performed poorly on the test in the stereotype threat condition but very well in the stereotypic boost condition. There were no differences in performance as a function of stereotype valence under promotion focus. Overall, these results show that the activation of prevention-focused self-regulation causes older adults to be particularly affected by both positive and negative stereotypes.

Gaillard, M., Desmette, D., & Keller, J. (2011). Regulatory focus moderates the influence of age-related stereotypic expectancies on older adults test performance and threat-based concerns. Revue europeenne de psychologie appliquee, 61, 23-29.

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