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Stereotypes of Age Differences in Personality Traits: Universal and Accurate?
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Age trajectories for personality traits are known to be similar across cultures. To address whether stereotypes of age groups reflect these age-related changes in personality, we asked participants in 26 countries (N = 3,323) to rate typical adolescents, adults, and old persons in their own country. Raters across nations tended to share similar beliefs about different age groups; adolescents were seen as impulsive, rebellious, undisciplined, preferring excitement and novelty, whereas old people were consistently considered lower on impulsivity, activity, antagonism, and Openness. These consensual age group stereotypes correlated strongly with published age differences on the five major dimensions of personality and most of 30 specific traits, using as criteria of accuracy both self-reports and observer ratings, different survey methodologies, and data from up to 50 nations. However, personal stereotypes were considerably less accurate, and consensual stereotypes tended to exaggerate differences across age groups.
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