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HHS HealthBeat (August 16, 2013)

Beating the senior stereotype

HHS HealthBeat: A group of senior citizens are standing next to one another.

Take the Next Step
Your Memory

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Researchers say that reminding seniors of the stereotype that they are forgetful often makes seniors more prone to forget things. This is called stereotype threat. But a study at the University of Southern California suggests there’s a way to beat it.

Researchers primed some seniors with reminders of aging stereotypes, then gave them a memory test and paid them based on test performance.

Researcher Sarah Barber:

“Stereotype threat hurt performance when remembering led to gains, but helped performance when forgetting led to losses.”

Barber advises: Stereotypes can affect an older person’s ability to remember; don’t attribute all forgetting to just getting older.

The study in the journal Psychological Science was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: August 16, 2013