We’ve all seen older people roll their eyes and utter a phrase like “Kids today!” or something along those lines. Apparently, Grandpa’s self-esteem gets a little boost when he hears about the dumb things young people do. New research published in the Journal of Communication suggests that people over age 50 actually prefer negative stories when it comes to the younger generation.
Dr. Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick of Ohio State University led the study that asked 276 German people to read a new online magazine. The group included 178 adults aged 18 to 30 and 98 adults aged 50 to 65.
The magazine, created especially for the study, featured 10 carefully chosen news stories. Participants were directed to click on stories they liked best, from a random assortment of positive and negative news about younger and older individuals. Each story had an accompanying photo of either a younger or older person. As they read, the computer secretly logged which stories the subjects clicked on and how long they spent reading each one.
The older subjects preferred negative news about young people rather than any news about their own generation. The younger subjects weren’t interested in the positive or negative stories about older people either. They chose positive stories about people their own age.
After reading the magazine, subjects completed a self-esteem questionnaire. The younger subjects’ self-esteem didn’t change as a result of reading the stories. For the older readers, however, there was a change: the more they read bad news about young people, the higher their self-esteem was.
The research suggests that younger people prefer to read about other young people to see how they live their lives. Young people are still forming their identities. Older people are more confident in their identities; but because our culture is youth-centered, though, they read negative stories and get a rise in self-esteem.
So while seniors may have lost the charisma of youth, they can still get a chuckle and a little confidence lift from reading about the foibles of the young.