Reluctance to describe "disliked" others as we age

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Medvene, Louis J.
Nilsen, Kyle
Latronica, Britania
Coleman, Carissa K.
Wachlarowicz, Marissa
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Medvene, Louis J.; Nilsen, Kyle; Latronica, B.; Coleman, Carissa K.; Wachlarowicz, Marissa. 2012. Reluctance to describe "disliked" others as we age. Gerontologist, v.52 no.1 pp.518-519

Socioemotional selectivity theory proposes that as we age we engage in emotional self-regulation with the goal of seeking positive emotional responses and avoiding negative ones (Carstensen et al, 1999). The present studies extend this line of research to a social perception task: assessing individuals’ ability to describe others in relatively complex ways. The Role Category Questionnaire (RCQ) has been used to measure the number of psychological constructs used to describe “liked” and “disliked” others, and is correlated with person-centered communication an ability related to satisfaction in caregiving relationships (Grosch, Medvene & Wolcott, 2008) and positive relationships more generally. Two studies were carried out using the RCQ as a measure of person perception. In the first study 24 residents of two geriatric care facilities and 23 certified nurse aides (CNAs) responded to the RCQ. CNAs used significantly more constructs than seniors to describe others. This difference was solely attributable to the finding that residents used fewer constructs to describe “disliked” others: M = 1.75 versus M = 5.79, p < .05. Results in the second study, involving 82 university undergraduates and 50 seniors recruited from the university’s Center for Aging and Physical Activity, followed the same pattern. Seniors used significantly fewer constructs to describe “disliked” others: M = 5.12 versus M = 8.7, p <.05. These results suggest that as we age we use fewer cognitive resources to process negative information about “disliked” others. Attendees of the session will learn about our reluctance to describe “disliked” others as we age.

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Presented at the Gerontological Society of America 65th Annual Scientific Meeting, San Diego, CA, November 14–18, 2012
Oxford University Press
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Gerontologist;v.52 no.1
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