a1 Psychology and Communication of Health and Risk, University Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands.
a2 Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
a3 Department of Social Science Research Methodology, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
The portrayal of older characters in television commercials has over time become more varied and positive. This study examines how different portrayals of older characters relate to self-stereotyping, a process through which older individuals apply their beliefs about older people in general to themselves and behave accordingly. The study thereby seeks to connect, as few have previously done, cultural studies and critiques of media portrayals with psychological studies of the effects of self-stereotyping. Sixty participants aged 65–75 years were primed with television commercials that portrayed older characters in different ways: ‘warm and incompetent’, ‘warm and competent’, and ‘cold and competent’. It was hypothesised that priming with warm/incompetent portrayals would have a negative effect on memory performance because such representations match the dominant stereotype, and that the effect would occur only among older people who identify with their own age group. It was found that the participants who identified with their own age group did indeed show impaired memory performance after priming with warm/incompetent portrayals, but also that the same effect was found after priming with warm/competent portrayals. The findings are discussed in terms of resistance against stereotyping by older individuals themselves as well as by media producers.
(Accepted January 21 2010)
(Online publication March 16 2010)
c1 Address for correspondence: Gerben J. Westerhof, University of Twente, Psychology and Communication of Health and Risk, P.O. Box 217, 7500AE Enschede, The Netherlands E-mail: email@example.com