Negative aging stereotypes make older adults perform below their true potential in a number of cognitive domains. This phenomenon, known as Age-Based Stereotype Threat, is currently viewed as a powerful factor contributing to an overestimation of cognitive decline in normal aging. However, age-based stereotype threat has been investigated almost exclusively in Western countries. Whether this phenomenon is universal or culture-specific is unknown.
Here, we first ran a pilot study (N=106) in which we assessed French and Indian participants’ attitudes towards aging. Then, we assessed stereotype threat effects on arithmetic problem-solving performance and strategies in French and Indian older adults (N=104).
We found that French older adults have more negative implicit attitudes towards aging than Indian older adults. We also found that culture modulates age-based stereotype threat effects. Whereas French older adults experienced stereotype threat on both selection and execution of strategies on all arithmetic problems, Indian older adults experienced this threat only in their strategy selection on harder problems. Most interestingly, cultural differences emerged on arithmetic problems under stereotype threat condition, where otherwise no cultural differences were found in the control condition.
Our findings have important implications for understanding how cultural contexts change aging effects on human cognition and age-related difference in cognitive performance.
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