The role of stereotype activation and age on communication patterns and impression judgments in the context of interpersonal interactions

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Horhota, Michelle
Blanchard-Fields, Fredda
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Age stereotypes have been associated with patterns of communication toward older adults as well as an individual s impression of older adults. Thus far, researchers have not explored these associations using paradigms in which participants engage interactively with the target; rather, studies have placed participants in the role of an objective observer of the target. The current study made use of a simulated communication paradigm to examine change in age stereotype activation, communication patterns and the impressions that are formed of an older adult target over the course of an interaction. Target individuals were portrayed either very positively (as a healthy active older adult) or more negatively (as an unwell stereotypical older adult). The competence of the target was manipulated to examine the effect of this trait on stereotype activation, communication and impressions. Individuals of all ages were found to initially speak in an affirmative way to the older adult target, regardless of initial impression, and then adjusted their speech to reflect the competency of the target. Impressions reflected both initial impressions as well as information gained from the interactive task; middle-aged and older adults focused on diagnostic information while young adults made use of all available information to inform their judgments.
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