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Aging Self-Stereotypes: Obstacle or Pathway to Health?

25th March 2014 3pm, University of Southampton, Building 58, Room 2097

Becca Levy, Yale University

Social scientists have documented ageism in a variety of spheres, including everyday conversations, politics, and the workplace. Although there has been considerable research that documents the existence of negative age stereotypes and ageism, less is known about the operation of positive age stereotypes and how older individuals are impacted by positive and negative age stereotypes. In this talk, I will present a series of experimental and longitudinal studies that examine how age stereotypes and aging self-stereotypes (older individuals beliefs about old people in general) operate. I will also present the stereotype embodiment theory that integrates these findings and suggests new directions for research. The theory proposes that stereotypes that are assimilated from the surrounding culture can contribute to older individuals' self-definitions and their health. The central message of the talk will be that the aging process and aging health is, in part, a social construct.