Aging Brains Can't Fend Off Stereotypes

Research suggests older adults have stronger recall for stereotypical information
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2009 6:29 PM CDT
In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Bee Vang, left, and Clint Eastwood are shown in a scene from, "Gran Torino."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Anthony Michael Rivetti)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The way the brain ages may make older people more inclined to prejudice, with new research suggesting that the elderly may have greater difficulty suppressing stereotypes. In one study, young and old adults were read stories which, in the words of the researchers, “allowed for stereotypic inferences” about blacks, Jews, and people from Appalachia. Afterward, older people were more likely to restate the stereotype as fact, reports Miller-McCune.

This "appears to be a more general phenomenon of aging," say the researchers, adding that older people "may be relying on stereotypes despite their best intentions to the contrary." A second study shows that the memory strength of stereotypes in older adults can be thwarted—but only if the stereotype is shown as false during initial comprehension.