Redefining 'Old' : An Examination of Face Strategies Used to Confront Ageist Stereotypes
Fay, Martha J.
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Through instructor evaluations, college students have been bestowed with extraordinary power, and their judgments have often been negatively tied to their instructor’s age. Colleagues are also positioned to judge the quality of their peer’s work through their status on Department Personnel Committees. This may be of concern to older employees, who have reported experiencing stereotype threat, a factor linked with lower levels of engagement; supervisors have also reported more negative perceptions of older workers, even controlling for actual abilities. Older educators have a unique opportunity to reshape perceptions about aging when confronted with a stereotype in conversation, but research has previously only focused on the goals and behaviors of the younger interlocutor. We analyzed responses of 83 educators ages 50 and older to find out how they responded to an ageist stereotype, qualitatively identifying specific face behaviors and quantitatively tying them to the desired outcomes following a confrontation. Using structuration as a theoretical lens, we show how the target of a stereotype can communicatively strategize to manage or transcend the perceived judgement, thus contributing to a more positive social construction of aging.