The proposed research investigates perceivers' impressions/perceptions about the cognitive capability of targets. Such impressions (perceptions) are expected to have behavioral implications resulting in differential task opportunities provided to targets of varying ages. A person-perception paradigm will be employed which varies the age (young, middle-aged, old), degree of forgetfulness (high, moderate, or none), and type (semantic vs. episodic) of forgetting experienced by male and female targets being interviewed by the supervisor of a volunteer program. After listening to a tape-recorded interview, young, middle-aged, and old male and female subjects will rate how they, in the role of supervisor, would behave toward the target in terms of assigning tasks of varying complexity. The model on which the proposed studies are based predicts that nonforgetful targets will be considered highly capable (and thus receive high task assignment ratings), regardless of their age; highly forgetful targets will be considered incapable regardless of their age. However, young and old (and possibly middle-aged) subjects will use an age-based double standard in judging the capability of moderately forgetful targets: old (and possibly middle-aged) targets will be perceived as less capable than young targets. Two factors that could ameliorate negative impressions of forgetful targets will be investigated: a target's explanation for forgetting and someone else's evaluation of a target's positive personal traits (e.g., conscientiousness). It is predicted that an explanation attributing forgetfulness to an external cause will modify perceivers' impressions regardless of target age, but an explanation involving internal attribution will result in less modification, particularly in middle-aged and older targets. The extent to which a target's alleged personal traits modify perceivers' impressions of that target's capability will depend upon the target's age and degree of forgetfulness.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
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Florida International University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Erber, Joan T; Szuchman, Lenore T (2002) Age and capability: the role of forgetting and personal traits. Int J Aging Hum Dev 54:173-89
Erber, J T; Prager, I G (2000) Age and excuses for forgetting: self-handicapping versus damage-control strategies. Int J Aging Hum Dev 50:201-14
Erber, J T; Prager, I G (1997) Age and forgetfulness: absolute versus comparison decisions about capability. Exp Aging Res 23:355-67
Erber, J T; Caiola, M A; Williams, M et al. (1997) Age and forgetfulness: the effect of implicit priming. Exp Aging Res 23:1-12
Erber, J T; Szuchman, L T; Prager, I G (1997) Forgetful but forgiven: how age and life style affect perceptions of memory failure. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 52:P303-7
Erber, J T; Prager, I G; Williams, M et al. (1996) Age and forgetfulness: confidence in ability and attribution for memory failures. Psychol Aging 11:310-5
Erber, J T; Szuchman, L T (1996) Memory performance in relation to age, verbal ability, and activity. Exp Aging Res 22:59-72
Erber, J T; Danker, D C (1995) Forgetting in the workplace: attributions and recommendations for young and older employees. Psychol Aging 10:565-9
Erber, J T; Caiola, M A; Pupo, F A (1994) Age and forgetfulness: managing perceivers' impressions of targets' capability. Psychol Aging 9:554-61
Erber, J T; Rothberg, S T; Szuchman, L T et al. (1993) How physicians appraise everyday memory failures of patients across the adult life span. Exp Aging Res 19:195-207

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