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As we h ave seen b efore stereotypes o ften functio n as a ba sis for a kind of default jud gment, bu t are easily overridden by other data. We may assume that older people are fragile, forgetful, and cranky, but we read ily accep t the fact that po werful, in tellectua lly com petent, h appy o lder peop le exist an d that this wom an befo re us is o ne of th em. , Canetto, Kam inski, & Felico, 1995; Collette-Pratt, 1976 ; Kite, Deaux, & Miele, 1991; Kogan, 1961b; Kogan & Shelton, 1962b; Luszcz & Fitzgerald, 1986; Rothbaum, 1983) are inclined to see elderly stereotypic terms (Hummert, Garstka, Shaner, & Strahm, 1995) and negative exemplars (Ch asteen, 2000) as m ore typical of older people.

Some physical and mental capacities do decline with age (although generally not as sha rply as people assum e), but as people get older they may have mo re time to devote to interpe rsona l activities and n urturin g roles. The traits the elderly are assigned also vary by context (Braithwaite, Gibson & Holman, 1985/6; Kogan & Shelton, 1960). , 1979; Jack son & S ullivan, 19 88; Kru eger, Heckh ausen , & Hun dertmark , 1995; Sh erman, G old, & Sh erman, 1 978; W einberger & M illham, 197 5). As we h ave seen b efore stereotypes o ften functio n as a ba sis for a kind of default jud gment, bu t are easily overridden by other data.

F inally, so me peo ple accep t wha t are us ually c alled stru ctura l explana tions. S o in 1972 72% o f white A merica ns sa id that slavery and d iscrimin ation h ad crea ted con ditions that m ake it hard for blacks to work their way out of the lower class, but that number had d eclined to 61% in 1986. In a different survey in 1988-89 (Kluegel, 1990) 21% said that income differences were due to innate ability, 44% becau se of lack of motivation , and 30% because of discrimina tion. In a study w ith college students Martin and Parker (1995) report that while some subjects accept biological explanations for race differenc es, mos t prefer expla nation s based on so cializat ion an d oppo rtunities .

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