I conduct research on the social cognitive processes that link age stereotypes and communication practices. This has led me to examine the structure of age stereotypes held by adults across the lifespan, the complexity and valence of those stereotypes, the activation cues in interaction (e.g., physical markers of age, context, traits, and communication styles of older persons) that may lead to positive or negative stereotyping of older individuals, the ways in which the nature of an activated stereotype affects communication with (and by) older persons, and the potential for an older person to change initial stereotypes through communication. My work has also considered the extent to which stereotypes and age identity operate outside conscious awareness (i.e., implicitly) to affect perceptions and behavior. This work has been primarily experimental and quantitative, with funding provided by the National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health. Analysis of communication produced in the experiments, however, has also involved qualitative approaches.
Recently I have begun to consider the ways in which age stereotypes and related communication practices emerge in and affect family relationships. That interest is reflected in my published work with former graduate students on family decision-making about age-related life style changes and the relationship between communication problems associated with Alzheimer’s dementia and caregiver burden. In addition, I have an ongoing project that examines the ways in which family communication patterns are not only consistent across generations, but also affect beliefs about paternalism and autonomy. Finally, I have a developing interest in the way in which age stereotypes and age differences in communication preferences enter into intergenerational relationships in the workforce. This is an area that affects those of us in academia, as well as those in the business world.