Older Adults and Stereotypes on Driving By, Lauren Carlson

Introduction

For an analysis on stereotypes about aging, I chose four articles that focused on the stereotypes of older adults and their ability to drive.  Throughout my research of these four empirical articles: Overly cautious and dangerous: An empirical evidence of the older driver stereotypes, Stereotype Threat Impairs Older Adult Driving, On Working Memory Capacity and Implicit Associations between Advanced Age and Dangerous Driving Stereotypes, The impact of Stereotype Threat on the simulated driving performance of older drivers.  These studies are aimed to investigate stereotype threats and the effects that these threats have on older adults and their ability to drive safely.  The study experiments that examine older adults and their ability to react to situations, along with perceptions the younger society places on older adults to be dangerous drivers.

Summary

 

In the article, Overly cautious and dangerous: An empirical evidence of the older driver stereotypes, investigates the stereotypes placed on older drives in two experiments.  These experiments show 12 simulation clips that were designed to be able to disguise variables (i.e.  color, vehicle band, color, etc.), that would denote if the driver was a young adult, middle age, or older adult.  In this simulation, they were able to produce different driving styles that were not bias towards each stereotype of driving, but demonstrated potential driving habits of each age group.  The experiment’s hypothesis conducted that “a negative stereotype exists for older drives, participants should easily discriminate the unsafe behavior of older drives from unsafe younger drivers” (Joanisse, 2012).  The research showed the participant’s unsafe driving behavior and appropriate safe driving behaviors.  Asking the participants to place each video of the clips under a category of young adult, middle adult, or older adult, in order to see if the stereotype of older adults being overly cautious and dangerous, is true.  In the second experiment, the researchers asked the participants to categorize which of the 12 clips they thought would fall under the representation of an older driver, along with defining specific features that would define an older driver.  The results of these two experiments show a positive correlation between negative driving habits and older adults.  This study suggest suggests that participants view older drivers as a hazard because of their over cautiousness and discomfort behind the wheel.  The finding of the research supported the stereotype by placing the video clip that were demonstrations of older drivers into the “older adults” category.

The second research article, Stereotype Threat Impairs Older Adult Driving, studies how a stereotype threat can impair human performance.  This stereotype effects older adults especially individuals with diminishing Working Memory Capacity (WMC).  WMC “is the ability to maintain tasked goals and ignore distractions” (Lambert et al., 2015).   In the experiment, they focus on older driving performance in individuals that had low WMC.  The stereotype has strongly effected individuals that exhibit primary aging in their driving performance, revealing slower reaction times in their braking performance.  The experiment was designed to have an older driver, drive in the middle of three lanes following the instructor’s vehicle, along with vehicles on both sides.  This study demonstrated the older driver’s reaction time to brake after the car in front started to brake.  The results showed that there was a positive relation between low WMC and break reaction time in the individuals that were impacted with the stereotype threat.  Also, due the the correlation in these two aspects, there was a significant decline in age related driving.  However, once older drivers have been exposed to the stereotype threat, it impaired their driving abilities completely, enabling them to function properly behind the wheel.  These findings support the stereotype in that it shows that an individual exposed to the stereotype threat struggle with low WMC, while having slower reaction time.  This correlation is present because it shows the aging of older adults and their cognitive functions slowly decreasing in individuals with diminishing WMC.

On Working Memory Capacity and Implicit Associations between Advanced Age and Dangerous Driving Stereotypes, studied older adults using a reaction time task that measures the ability to associate two concepts.  This experiment presented a test that connected concepts such as young and dangerous, or old and safe, and vice versa.  The study concluded that there was a positive and stronger correlation among the pairing of young-safe and old-dangerous compared to the opposite.  This exhibits a negative stereotype of aging and driving.  Experiment two conducted the the same aspects as experiment one, with one minor change. At the end of the experiment, the participants had to partake in an OSPAN test of WMC.  This test was given in the form of math equations, once correct there would be a letter to be remembered, and the participants were instructed to take the test again, but this time as though they were hypothetical older adults (Lambert, 2013).  The participants had to associate the the response key with young-safe or old-dangerous.  The results of this showed a positive correlation of feeling more “warmth” towards other young adult drivers than to older adult drivers.  This study demonstrated the stereotypes of older adult drivers, but also showed WMC and how it related to the stereotypes of individual cognition. The participants in this study concluded that older adults are more dangerous while driving and can be seen through the impact of of the Stereotype threat.

In the last article, The impact of Stereotype Threat on the simulated driving performance of older drivers, focus on how older adults driving is altered after being exposed to the stereotype threat.  This study investigated two topics, including why older adults ages 65 and up were more involved in accidents, and to understand the primary process involved in driving.  The drivers were presented a scenario and had to figure out a way solve the problem in less than 3 seconds, by braking and swerving to the right using their WMC.  Studies had shown that the stereotype threat generated performance related anxiety that decrease cognitive resources in stressful situations such as working memory (Joanisse, 2012).   The results showed a correlation between dangerous driving in older adults that were exposed to the stereotype threat.  This caused them to make more mistakes while driving, than those not exposed to the threat.  The finding in this article supports the stereotype that older adults are exposed to the stereotype threat, resulted in normal driving being changed, while also becoming more uncomfortable behind the wheel, making it unsafe.  This data shows how with these threats are able to shape the mind into thinking that older adults are not as capable of driving as young adults.

Conclusion

These studies were very interesting to read, helping understand societies perception and stereotypes on older adult’s ability to drive, along with the impacts WMC has on driving.  All these studies arrive at a similar conclusion, in that, older adults make for more dangerous drivers, due to their slower reaction times and the stereotype threats that are placed on them.  These threats impact their thinking and impair their driving and reaction time on braking.  I find it interesting that these studies have similar outcomes and show a positive correlation with older adults and dangerous driving, due to stereotype threat.

References

Joanisse, M., Gagnon, S., & Voloaca, M.  (2012, March).  Overly cautious and dangerous: An empirical evidence of the older driver stereotypes.  Retrieved February 04, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457511003058

Joanisse, M., Gagnon, S., & Voloaca, M.  (2012, June 22).  The impact of Stereotype Threat on the simulated driving performance of older drivers.  Retrieved February 05, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457512002187

Lambert, A.  E., Seegmiller, J.  K., Stefanucci, J.  K., & Watson, J.  M.  (2013, January 29).  OnWorking Memory Capacity and Implicit Associations between Advanced Age and Dangerous Driving Stereotypes.  Retrieved February 03, 2017, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/acp.2908

Lambert, A.  E., Watson, J.  M., Stefanucci, J.  K., Ward, N., Bakdash, J.  Z., & Stryer, D.  L.  (2015, August 20).  Stereotype Threat Impairs Older Adult Driving.  Retrieved February 04, 2017, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu:2048/doi/10.1002/acp.3162/full

 

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