Positive portrayals of old age do not always have positive consequences

Hoi Lam Helene FUNG, Tianyuan LI, Xin ZHANG, Iny M. I. SIT, Sheung-Tak CHENG, Derek M. ISAACOWITZ

Research output: Contribution to journalArticles

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives. The literature on “image of aging” suggests that exposure to positive portrayals of old age has positive downstream consequences for older adults. This study examined whether these positive consequences might have limits, such that they occurred for portrayals of old age that were positive, but not those that were extremely positive. Method. Younger and older adults were allowed to selectively view (Study 1) or were experimentally exposed to (Studies 2 and 3) portrayals of old age of different levels of positivity. Their attention (Study 1) and physiological responses (Study 2) toward the portrayals, as well as perception of personal aging (Study 1) and memory performance (Study 3) after the exposure, were assessed. Results. Findings from 3 studies suggested that older adults have a less negative perception of personal aging (Study 1) and a stronger calming physiological response (Study 2) when being exposed to portrayals of old age that were positive, but not extremely positive. Moreover, extremely positive portrayals lowered downstream memory performance (Study 3) and attracted less attention from older adults when they found these portrayals unrealistic (Study 1). Discussion. These findings pinpoint the conditions under which positive portrayals of old age may benefit older adults. Copyright © 2014 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)913-924
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology: Series B
Volume70
Issue number6
Early online dateMay 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Citation

Fung, H. H., LI, T., Zhang, X., Sit, I. M. I., Cheng, S.-T., & Isaacowitz, D. K. (2015). Positive portrayals of old age do not always have positive consequences. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 70(6), 913-924.

Keywords

  • Age
  • Images of aging
  • Memory
  • Physiology
  • Visual attention

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