Improving memory in old age through implicit self-stereotyping

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996 Dec;71(6):1092-107. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.71.6.1092.


This research demonstrates that subliminally activated stereotypes can alter judgments about oneself and can change cognitive performance. In the first study, an intervention that activated positive stereotypes of aging without the participants' awareness tended to improve memory performance, memory self-efficacy, and views of aging in old individuals; in contrast, an intervention that activated negative stereotypes of aging tended to worsen memory performance, memory self-efficacy, and views of aging in old participants. A second study demonstrated that for the strong effects to emerge from the shifting stereotypes, the stereotypes must be important to one's self-image: Young individuals randomly assigned to the same conditions as the old participants in the first study did not exhibit any of the significant interactions that emerged among the old participants. This research highlights the potential for memory improvement in old individuals when the negative stereotypes of aging that dominate the American culture are shifted to more positive stereotypes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Age Factors
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Awareness
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • North America
  • Photography
  • Self Concept*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Subliminal Stimulation
  • Time Factors