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How do ageing stereotypes affect performance on a previously unexplored false memory task?

False memories are memories that are thought to have happened but did not happen. Age-related neurological changes can cause an increase in false memories; however, researchers have started focusing on stereotype threat, to explain this increase. Stereotype threat occurs when negative beliefs about a particular group are introduced, causing them to perform poorly on tasks. Studies focused on the effects of age-based stereotype threat on false memories have been conflicted due to the methodological differences (such as the use of retrieval task and the focus of the task). Thus, Experiment 1 aimed to account for those methodological differences and investigated whether stereotype threat influenced performance on the memory conjunction task. In Experiment 1, 60 participants were given a memory conjunction task online and were randomly assigned to either a control or a stereotype threat group. Participants were then given a free recall and a recognition task. They were also asked to indicate their levels of education, employment and importance given to memory (moderating factors), as these factors can affect performance. The results indicated no difference in performance between the control and the stereotyped participants. This could be due to participants finding the memory conjunction task difficult, thus choosing to disengage from the task. Therefore, Experiment 2 aimed to investigate whether there were any changes in performance when an online DRM task with a different focus (prevention or promotion) was used. In Experiment 2, 120 participants were given a DRM task online and were randomly assigned to the stereotype threat-promotion, stereotype threat-prevention, control-promotion and control-prevention groups. This experiment did not find any significant differences between the groups. It is possible that previous studies mistakenly induced subtle and blatant stereotype threats while the present experiment only used blatant threat. Recruiting participants from an online platform could also explain why present study found discrepant findings compared to the previous research. Even though present study was unable to replicate previous findings, it still added to the limited literature and focused on different methodological factors all at once. It is essential to keep investigating and focusing on different methodological factors to better understand a very complex topic. The threat could cause older adults to be diagnosed with dementia and receive unnecessary treatment when, in fact, they are healthy.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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