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Comparative Study
, 22 (2), 105-21

Characterizing Adolescents, Middle-Aged, and Elderly Adults: Putting the Elderly Into Perspective

Comparative Study

Characterizing Adolescents, Middle-Aged, and Elderly Adults: Putting the Elderly Into Perspective

M A Luszcz. Int J Aging Hum Dev.

Abstract

Adolescents, middle-aged, and elderly adults used a Likert scale to describe an ideal, real, or typical person of either their own age group or one of the other two. On each of four dimensions of instrumentality, autonomy, acceptability, and integrity, ideal people were characterized more positively than real or typical ones. Age of neither participant or stimulus object affected these judgments. Stereotypes emerged when typical people were rated, though judgments on real people suggested little difference between elderly and middle-aged people. However, real adolescents were judged to be more unacceptable, dependent, and instrumental than were middle-aged and elderly adults. On instrumentality the age groups differed in their perceptions of each other. Adolescents and middle-aged adults perceived instrumentality to decline in old age, but the elderly did not agree. Thus attitudes reflected stereotypes when broad categorical decisions were required, but stereotypes broke down when known people were characterized.

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