ward older adults has yielded mixed results (Lutsky, 1980). Some work finds that frequent contact with an older adult person leads to more positive attitudes toward older adults more generally (Cummings, Williams, and Ellis, 2003; Gatz, Popkin, Pino, and VandenBos, 1984; Hale, 1998). For instance, children in daily contact with older adults at their preschool were found to hold positive attitudes toward older adults, whereas children without such contact held vague or indifferent attitudes (Caspi, 1984). In contrast, other studies have found either no relationship or a negative relationship between contact frequency and the positivity of attitudes toward older adults (Ivester and King, 1977). Consistent with revisions to Allport’s original contact hypothesis, however, most research suggests that quality of contact, rather than frequency, predicts subsequent attitudes (Knox, Gekoski, and Johnson, 1986). This suggests that greater, positive intergenerational contact is a promising route to the reduction of negative stereotypes, attitudes, and discrimination. Consequently, additional research on the dynamics of intergenerational interactions that foster positive contact experiences is essential (e.g., Coupland, Coupland, Giles, Henwood, and Wiemann, 1988; Giles, Fox, Harwood, and Williams, 1994).
A different approach to reducing negative attitudes and stereotypes concerning older adults can be drawn from recent work examining the effects of exposure to atypical or counterstereotypical older adults (e.g., Duval, Ruscher, Welsh, and Catanese, 2000). For example, Dasgupta and Greenwald (2001) found that young adult participants revealed less automatic age bias if they had recently been exposed to admired older adult exemplars (e.g., Mother Theresa) and disliked young exemplars (e.g., Tonya Harding), compared to recent exposure to disliked older adult exemplars and admired young exemplars. Research in other domains finds similar results (e.g., Blair, Ma, and Lenton, 2001; Lowery, Hardin, and Sinclair, 2001; Rudman, Ashmore, and Gary, 2001). Specifically, imagining a capable woman reduced automatic gender stereotyping (Blair et al., 2001), and exposure to a black individual in a high-status, counterstereotypical role reduced whites’ automatic racial bias (Lowery et al., 2001; Richeson and Ambady, 2003). Taken together, this research suggests that exposure to atypical exemplars of stigmatized groups may reduce bias and stereotyping toward those groups.
The research examined above suggests overwhelmingly that, although it is true that aging has certain negative consequences, people (namely, younger adults) who exhibit negative stereotypes, attitudes, and behavior toward older adults overestimate, overgeneralize, and overaccommodate the extent of actual impairments and difficulties. Even “positive” stereo-