Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Ageism is a form of prejudice directed toward older members of a society. Like other forms of negative group stereotyping, ageism can vary in both its intensity and its effect on the targeted group. People who possess unflattering dispositions toward the elderly may not cause them direct harm if their feelings are unexpressed. When these sentiments are more severe or very commonly held by dominant groups, however, they may take institutionalized forms as in the case of discriminatory labor practices. Many sociologists believe that these practices are responsible for the subordination of the elderly in an age-stratified society. Cognitive theorists believe that people develop mental images of what it means to be old that guide their understanding of the late stages of the life course. According to communication accommodation theory, these images tend to induce the young to expect certain behaviors from the old, and to act according to these ...