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Abstract

This study investigated the automatic activation of ageism by using a go/no-go version of the masked evaluative priming task. Pictures of younger persons, of older persons in everyday contexts, and of older persons depicting age-related conditions of decline were used as masked primes that preceded positive and negative target adjectives conveying either other-relevant valence (e.g., just and mean) or possessor-relevant valence (e.g., serene and lonely). The evaluative priming effect (denoting relative negativity of old-everyday primes in comparison with younger primes) was significant, as hypothesized, only for possessor-relevant targets. It was not moderated by explicit ageism. A second priming index (denoting relative negativity of old-decline primes in comparison with old-everyday primes) predicted, however, explicit ageism. Again, this result was, as expected, constrained to the index based on possessor-relevant targets. This study provides further evidence that prejudice in terms of automatic evaluations of social stimuli can be more fine grained beyond a mere one-dimensional positive–negative differentiation. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.