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Still young at heart: negative age-related information motivates distancing from same-aged people


Weiss, D; Freund, Alexandra M (2012). Still young at heart: negative age-related information motivates distancing from same-aged people. Psychology and Aging, 27(1):173-180.

Abstract

Research on subjective age has shown that most older adults feel significantly younger than their chronological age. One of the proposed mechanisms for this subjective age effect is that distancing oneself from an age group that is associated with decline in functioning helps older adults maintain a positive view of themselves. Providing negative age-related information, then, should lead older adults to direct their attention away from stimuli that remind them of their age and to distance themselves from same-aged people. In 2 experiments (N1 = 78, 65-83 years of age, M = 71.67, SD = 4.81; N2 = 98, 65-87 years of age, M = 70.52, SD = 4.89), older adults were confronted with positive, neutral, or negative age-related information. The salience of age increased after receiving negative age-related information. Furthermore, older adults directed their gaze away from pictures of older adults and looked longer at middle-aged adults after being confronted with negative age-related information. In addition, Study 2 showed that negative age-related information led older adults to distance themselves from same-aged people. Moreover, they perceived themselves as being more similar to middle-aged than to older adults. These findings highlight the motivational processes that might contribute to the discrepancy between chronological and subjective age in older adults and the psychological function of this discrepancy. Feeling younger might allow older adults to maintain a positive view of themselves despite age-related losses. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved).

Research on subjective age has shown that most older adults feel significantly younger than their chronological age. One of the proposed mechanisms for this subjective age effect is that distancing oneself from an age group that is associated with decline in functioning helps older adults maintain a positive view of themselves. Providing negative age-related information, then, should lead older adults to direct their attention away from stimuli that remind them of their age and to distance themselves from same-aged people. In 2 experiments (N1 = 78, 65-83 years of age, M = 71.67, SD = 4.81; N2 = 98, 65-87 years of age, M = 70.52, SD = 4.89), older adults were confronted with positive, neutral, or negative age-related information. The salience of age increased after receiving negative age-related information. Furthermore, older adults directed their gaze away from pictures of older adults and looked longer at middle-aged adults after being confronted with negative age-related information. In addition, Study 2 showed that negative age-related information led older adults to distance themselves from same-aged people. Moreover, they perceived themselves as being more similar to middle-aged than to older adults. These findings highlight the motivational processes that might contribute to the discrepancy between chronological and subjective age in older adults and the psychological function of this discrepancy. Feeling younger might allow older adults to maintain a positive view of themselves despite age-related losses. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved).

Citations

23 citations in Web of Science®
27 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:17 Oct 2011 13:05
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:02
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0882-7974
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024819
PubMed ID:21823797

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