Highlighting and Reducing the Impact of Negative Aging Stereotypes During Older Adults' Cognitive Testing


  • Mazerolle Marie
  • Regner Isabelle
  • Rigalleau François
  • Huguet Pascal


  • Social cognition
  • Dementia
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Behavior
  • Stereotype threat
  • Aging
  • Memory

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As life expectancy increases, aging has become a major health challenge, resulting in a huge effort to better discriminate between normal and pathological cognitive decline. It is thus essential that cognitive tests and their administration are as fair as possible. However, an important source of bias during cognitive testing comes from negative aging stereotypes that can impair the memory performance of older adults and inflate age differences on cognitive tasks. The fear of confirming negative aging stereotypes creates an extra pressure among older adults which interferes with their intellectual functioning and leads them to perform below their true abilities. Here, we present a protocol that highlights simple but efficient interventions to alleviate this age-based stereotype threat effect. The first study showed that simply informing older participants about the presence of younger participants (threat condition) led older adults to underperform on a standardized memory test compared with younger participants, and that this performance difference was eliminated when the test was presented as age-fair (reduced-threat condition). The second study replicated these findings on short cognitive tests used to screen for predementia in clinical settings and showed that teaching older adults about stereotype threat inoculated them against its effects. These results provide useful recommendations about how to improve older adults' memory assessment both in Iab studies and in clinical settings.

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