Threat inoculation: experienced and imagined intergenerational contact prevents stereotype threat effects on older people's math performance

Psychol Aging. 2008 Dec;23(4):934-9. doi: 10.1037/a0014293.


The authors hypothesized that experienced and imagined intergenerational contact should improve older people's math test performance under stereotype threat. In Experiment 1 (N=51, mean age=69 years), positive prior contact with grandchildren eliminated stereotype threat, which was mediated partially by reduced test-related anxiety. In Experiment 2 (N=84, mean age=72 years), the effect of threat on performance was significantly improved when participants merely imagined intergenerational contact, a situation again mediated by reduced anxiety. Previous research established that intergroup contact improves intergroup attitudes. The findings show that intergroup (intergenerational) contact also provides a defense against stereotype threat.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Arousal
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Suggestion