Negative Aging Stereotypes Impair Performance on Brief Cognitive Tests Used to Screen for Predementia

authors

  • Mazerolle Marie
  • Regner Isabelle
  • Barber Sarah J.
  • Paccalin Marc
  • Miazola Aimé-Chris
  • Huguet Pascal
  • Rigalleau François

document type

ART

abstract

Objectives: There is today ample evidence that negative aging stereotypes impair healthy older adults’ performance on cognitive tasks. Here, we tested whether these stereotypes also decrease performance during the screening for predementia on short cognitive tests widely used in primary care. Method: An experiment was conducted on 80 healthy older adults taking the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) under Threat or Reduced-threat condition. Results: Stereotype threat significantly impaired older adults’ performance on both tests, resulting in 40% of older adults meeting the screening criteria for predementia, compared with 10% in Reduced-threat condition (MMSE and MoCA averaged). Discussion: Our research highlights the influence of aging stereotypes on short cognitive tests used to screen for predementia. It is of critical importance that physicians provide a threat-free testing environment. Further research should clarify whether this socially induced bias may also operate in secondary care by generating false positives.

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