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Keywords:

  • student attitudes toward older adults;
  • attitude measurement;
  • Aging Semantic Differential

OBJECTIVES: To explore the presence of negative stereotypical attitudes among medical students and the extent to which attitudes changed over time.

DESIGN: Analysis of pre- and postexperience administration of attitude measures to four cohorts of medical students (two cohorts as quasi-controls and two cohorts as curriculum “treatment” groups).

SETTING: The curriculum of a community-based medical school in the United States.

PARTICIPANTS: Four sequential cohorts of medical students.

INTERVENTION: Experience in a required comprehensive vertically integrated curriculum.

MEASUREMENTS: The Aging Semantic Differential (ASD), using an 85-year-old woman as the cue image.

RESULTS: The reliability scores for all administrations were acceptable. The two control cohorts demonstrated no change in attitude scores, whereas the treatment cohorts reflected a slight shift toward more-positive scores. However, all cohorts had scores for all sittings that were in the neutral range; on average students routinely scored 70% of the 32 items neither positively nor negatively.

CONCLUSION: These students seemed not to hold negative stereotypes as measured using the ASD. Although two of the 32 items prompted negative stereotyping, and six items elicited positive stereotyping, attitudes were neutral about older adults. Characteristics of the ASD itself or of the response set used in this study may have affected the results.