Victoria I. Michalowski, Denis Gerstorf, and Christiane A. Hoppmann
Aging does not occur in isolation, but often involves significant others such as spouses. Whether such dyadic associations involve gains or losses depends on a myriad of factors, including the time frame under consideration. What is beneficial in the short term may not be so in the long term, and vice versa. Similarly, what is beneficial for one partner may be costly for the other, or the couple unit over time. Daily dynamics between partners involving emotion processes, health behaviors, and collaborative cognition may accumulate over years to affect the longer-term physical and mental health outcomes of either partner or both partners across adulthood and into old age. Future research should move beyond an individual-focused approach to aging and consider the importance of and interactions among multiple time scales to better understand how, when, and why older spouses shape each other’s aging trajectories, both for better and for worse.
Alison Chasteen, Maria Iankilevitch, Jordana Schiralli, and Veronica Bergstrom
In 2016, Statistics Canada released the results of the most recent census. For the first time ever, the proportion of Canadians aged 65-plus years surpassed the proportion aged 15 and under. The increase in the proportion of older adults was viewed as further evidence of the faster rate of aging of Canada’s population. Such demographic shifts are not unique to Canada; many industrialized nations around the world are experiencing similar changes in their populations. Increases in the older adult population in many countries might produce beneficial outcomes by increasing the potential for intergenerational contact and exposure to exemplars of successful aging. Such positive intergenerational contact could counter prevailing age stereotypes and improve intergenerational relations. On the other hand, such increases in the number of older adults could be viewed as a strain and potential threat to resources shared with younger age groups. The possibility of increased intergenerational conflict makes it more important than ever before to understand how older adults are stereotyped, how those stereotypes can produce different kinds of biased behavior toward them, and what the impact of those stereotypes are on older adults themselves.
Social-cognitive age representations are complex and multifaceted. A common stereotype applied to older people is one of warmth but incompetence, often resulting in paternalistic prejudice toward them. However, such benevolent prejudice, characterized by warm overtones, can change to hostile bias if older adults are perceived to violate prescriptive norms about age-appropriate behavior. In addition to coping with age prejudice, older adults also have to deal with the deleterious effects of negative age stereotypes on their day-to-day function. Exposure to negative aging stereotypes can worsen older adults’ cognitive performance in a number of contexts. As well, age stereotypes can be incorporated into older adults’ own views of aging, also leading to poorer outcomes for them in a variety of domains. A number of interventions to counteract the effects of negative aging stereotypes appear promising, but more work remains to be done to reduce the impact of negative aging stereotypes on daily function in later life.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
Within psychology, the term habit is most often used to refer to a process whereby situations prompt action automatically, through activation of mental situation-action associations acquired through prior performances. Unlike consciously intended behavior, which proceeds via a cognitively effortful reflective processing system, behavior that is directed by habit is regulated by an impulsive processing system, and so can be elicited with minimal cognitive effort, awareness, control, or intention. The habit formation process involves a gradual transferral of action initiation from the conscious attentional or motivational processes involved in reflective processing, to external cuing mechanisms characteristic of impulsive processing. Behavior thus becomes detached from motivational or volitional control, freeing finite cognitive resources for unfamiliar or otherwise more demanding tasks. Upon encountering associated situations, habitual tendencies dominate action regulation, and alternative actions become less readily accessible.
By virtue of these characteristics, habit theory proposes that habit strength will predict the likelihood of enactment of habitual behavior, and that strong habitual tendencies will dominate over motivational tendencies. Evidence of these effects, albeit predominantly observational and correlational, has been found for many everyday socially significant and health-relevant behaviors, such as physical activity, healthy eating, alcohol consumption, TV viewing, and travel mode choice. Such findings have stimulated interest in habit formation as a behavior change mechanism—commentators have argued that adding habit formation components into behavior change interventions should sustain what are otherwise typically only short-term effects, by shielding new behaviors against potential motivational lapses. Habit-based interventions differ from non-habit-based interventions in that they include elements that promote context-dependent repetition, with the explicit aim of developing situation-action associations, and thus, situationally cued automatic behavioral responses. A wealth of habit-based behavior change interventions have been studied in clinical trials and have mostly shown positive effects on behavior. However, due to the methodological limitations of these trials, the longevity of such effects, and the unique impact on behavior of habit-focused components are not yet known. As an intervention strategy, habit formation has been shown to be acceptable to intervention recipients, who report that, through repetition, behaviors gradually become routinized and “second nature.” Whether habit formation interventions truly offer a route to long-lasting behavior change, however, remains unclear.