!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The Tendency to Stereotype Can Strengthen as One Ages

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Tendency to Stereotype Can Strengthen as One Ages

Another reason to give emphasis to developing critical thinking habits has emerged in recent research. It seems that as one ages there is a tendency to give greater rein to stereotypes in one's thinking. More precisely, as reported at Miller-McCune.com, researchers have found that "older people have difficulty suppressing stereotypes, which means many may become prejudiced against their will."

One study was conducted by William von Hippel and Gabriel Radvansky, psychology professors at the University of Queensland and Notre Dame, respectively. They found that older adults are "relatively more likely to draw and remember stereotypic inferences." Specifically, when reading stories involving characters, such as African Americans and Jews, who are susceptible to stereotyping, the older experimental subjects were more likely than the younger subjects to embed in their memories versions of the stories that included stereotyped views of the characters.

A second study, by Radvansky, von Hippel, and Nicholas Lynchard, a graduate student in psychology at Notre Dame, offers a method for deterring this tendency to stereotype more firmly as one ages. Providing counter-stereotypic information in a narrative makes a big difference. The researchers explain:
... when counter-stereotypic information is explicitly provided at encoding [i.e., when a narrative is first read], older adults are no more likely than younger adults to rely on stereotypes, and are similarly capable of altering their interpretation of a situation when information suggests that interpretation is incorrect.
This result indicates that people can help each other steer clear of stereotyping by speaking up when stereotypes are brought into a conversation. Employees' calmly rejecting stereotypes that stray into discussions with colleagues is certainly something organizations should support.