Training Older Adults: The Role of Strategy Use and Stereotype Threat

Thomas Cavanagh, Colorado State University - Fort Collins


Older adults are becoming an increasingly important part of the workforce. Due to cognitive and emotional changes associated with aging, this population might require specially designed training programs to optimize training outcomes. Two specific changes associated with aging that need to be addressed are susceptibility to stereotype threat and the use of metacognitive strategies during learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of initiating stereotype threat in older adults, as well as the effect of encouraging older adults to use metacognitive strategies during training, on training outcomes. In a 2X2 between-subject experimental design including no stereotype threat/ stereotype threat and no metacognitive prompt/ cognitive prompt conditions, 131 older adults between the ages of 55 and 70 years old were assessed on training outcomes. Results indicated that, as hypothesized, stereotype threat had a negative effect on learning outcomes. Contrary to expectations, cognitive prompts also had a negative effect on training outcomes. Implications of the results are that further investigation of optimal training design for older adults is warranted.