Studying the effect of activation of the elderly stereotype on behaviour, participants were instructed to work on a scrambled-sentence task as part of a language proficiency experiment. There were two groups with two different priming conditions. The neutral priming group worked with a scrambled-sentence task that contained no age-specific words. In the elderly priming group, the scrambled-sentence task contained words relevant to the elderly stereotype. However, all references to slowness – which is stereotypically associated with elderly people – were excluded.
After completing the task, participants left the laboratory room. Using a hidden stopwatch, the amount of time each participant took to walk down the corridor was recorded. Results showed that participants who had been primed with the elderly stereotype walked more slowly (m= 8.28 s) than those who had not been primed with stereotypical stimuli (m= 7.30 s). In other words, when the elderly stereotype was activated, people acted in ways consistent with the activated stereotype (Bargh et al., 1996).
Bargh, J. A., Chen, M. & Burrows, L. (1996) Automaticity of Social Behavior: Direct Effects of Trait Construct and Stereotype Activation on Action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(2), 230-244
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