Announcement of research agenda “Perceiving old age”

Research agenda "Perceiving old age"

In the in-house colloquium of the Institute for Gerontology, University of Vechta, I announced what my research agenda on the topic of perception of old age is. The goal of this research agenda is to examine how older people are perceived across cultures, which, I expect, has consequences for how younger people behave towards this age group. These have been addressed in the literature, however a program that seeks to identify and integrate the links between individual, societal and life-transition factors is still missing.

My approach is three-fold:
1. Investigate person-centered factors that motivate and guide the perception of old age. Under this umbrella-term, I seek to examine factors such as personal value preferences and worries, as well as threat perception and personality attributes. My expectation is that there other relevant person-centered factors that in the current literature are under-researched (for example values and worries) but can provide additional explanation to why and how people perceive old age.
2. Consider society-related factors that shape and form the identity, personality and other psychological traits of individuals in order to further understand the reasons for a rather ageist image of older people. Under this overall term, I expect that cultural characteristics, such as culture-relevant value preferences and cultural particularities like individualism or long-term orientation, and traits of the society itself, such as breadth of macro worries, will add to the holistic explanation of ageism.
3. Examine varying life-transition scenarios and in which way and degree is the perception of older people modified by them. This line of studies is limited to three main scenarios, namely, migration, the aging process itself, and inter-generational interactions. My expectation is that changes, the core process of these life-transition scenarios, will either reinforce or weaken any existing negative images of older people. The more intriguing question is however, what elements exactly in these three scenarios are responsible for such adjustments/adaptation in perception of old age.

To further develop and bring into fruition these research topics, I have reached out to colleagues who are experts in their field.
The current collaborations are:
1. With Jorge Vala (ICS, Lisbon), for a project on the role of threat in the perception of older people. The goal is to take a dual-culture approach (Germany and Portugal) in identifying experimentally the effects of threat perception on varying behavioral measurements related to old age discrimination.
2. With Melanie Vauclair (ISCTE, Lisbon) and Maksim Rudnev (ISCTE, Lisbon & HSE, Russia), for a project on the implications of culture-level value typologies on explaining why seemingly there is discrepancy in the stereotypes of older people that individuals subjectively hold and their culture-relevant stereotypes of older people.

Independently, I am working on two additional projects:
1. ‘Horizontal transmission of stereotypes of older people from native population to immigrants’, a project that seeks to answer the research question whether immigrants can incorporate the stereotype-information concerning older people that they learn in their host cultures into their existing beliefs. The manuscript has been submitted.
2. ‘(Dis)Agreeing with my country’s stereotypes of older people’, a project that seeks to understand whether personal value preferences and worries can provide explanation to the seeming discrepancy between what people subjectively believe and what the prevailing cultural beliefs of older people are in their cultures and subsequently whether there are cross-cultural differences in this discrepancy. A manuscript is in preparation.

Presentation at SPARC Group, ICS Lisbon

stanciu vortrag sparc groupUpcoming presentation at the SPARC research group at ICS, Lisbon based on our currently under review manuscript – Witte, Stanciu & Boehnke / A new empirical approach to inter-cultural comparisons of value preferences based on Schwartz’s theory.

The presentation will first provide an overview of the current methodology to arrive from individual level value preferences at culture level value preferences – the averaging approach. Next, we point out a number of critical issues in this methodology and suggest an alternative approach, one whereby culture level value preferences represent frequency scores of the ten individual level value preferences. Throughout the presentation, we use data of two rounds of the European Social Survey (ESS) to document our claims and methodological procedure. We show parallels between results of the two methods and also the relevant differences. The talk ends with a suggestion regarding using a methodological sound approach to measure culture values and be skeptical of one that does not meet basic assumptions from a theory of measurement stand-point.

Two successful conferences, the Annual CRS (Birmingham) and the 51st DGPs (Frankfurt am Main)

September was a busy month, with two presentations in two countries less than 30 hours apart. Both were successful in terms of networking and reception.

For the first time ever, I presented at a meeting of political researchers. The Annual Conference of the Conflict Research Society (CRS) in Birmingham, UK, was small, vivid nevertheless. My contribution was to the social psychology panel organized by H.Blumberg. I was the representative of our research team (Oscar Smallenbroek, Regina Arant, and Klaus Boehnke) and gave a report of our work on how value development trajectories into adulthood can have an impact on political engagement in mid-adulthood (more on the project here).

CRS_screen shot slide

One of the findings can be seen in the image above. In our longitudinal data, we find that value preferences change from 1999 to 2017 in a sample of German adolescents and teenagers. In a subsequent model we show that this value trajectory chance can predict political behavior, however, the evidence is inconclusive. We are optimistic that this work will soon be submitted for publication.

Also for the first time ever, I attended the congress of the German association for psychology (DGPs). The meeting in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, was massive, accommodating approximately 2,800 colleagues. My contribution was to the paper session “D27 Interkulturelle und lebenslange Gruppenprozesse [intercultural and life long group processes].” I represented the work group that includes Erich H. Witte and Klaus Boehnke and gave a report on our attempt to provide an alternative methodology to arrive at values at the culture level.

DGPs_screen shot slide

Our main argument is that in the literature there has been a need for an alternative methodology. Yet, the status quo of interpreting the average scores over individuals in a country as culture level indicators of values has remained without a ‘competitor.’ We suggest an approach that uses frequencies of all ten individual level value types as a more adequate description of values at the culture level from a theory of measurement point of view. Above, the image illustrates these frequencies and their rank order in Germany in 2012, based on the 6th round of ESS data. Clearly, a high proportion of Germans (33.7%) could not be classified according to the theory of value preferences at the individual level. We are hopeful that this method will soon be published.

New article in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology

Stereotype accommodation is a new concept that we introduce in the literature

Figure 1. Framework_20Marc2018

Figure 1. A framework of the cross-cultural differences, learning opportunities, individual differences, and cognitive resources in the study of how disconfirming/ novel stereotype-relevant information is incorporated towards stereotype accommodation. NOTE: ‘P’ stands for Propositions and it refers to in-text propositions.


The article co-authored with Christin-Melanie Vauclair (CIS-IUL, ISCTE) is now in the process of publication at the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology (JCCP). For the version of the manuscript that has been accepted, you can download a pdf copy here..

The article ‘Stereotype accommodation: A socio-cognitive perspective on migrants’ cultural adaptation’ is a theoretical piece in which we introduce in the literature the concept of stereotype accommodation and a theoretical framework that can be used in its empirical testing.

We define stereotype accommodation as a cognitive process whereby migrants incorporate the stereotype-relevant information learned in their host cultures into their pre-existing stereotypes.

Our main argument is that the existing work has only considered ways in which migrants’ perceptions about the ethnicity of country-natives (and vice versa, the perceptions of country-natives about the ethnicity of migrants) can change in the context of migration. But, as we know from the stereotype literature, such an approach addresses only one characteristic of a group or individual, namely the ethnicity. We propose that in the migration context individuals can also go through a process of cognitive heuristic adaptation. The core contribution of the article is therefore to provide means of studying the cognitive adaptation of migrants in a wider form, one that includes the study of perceptions of other’s ethnicity and of perceptions about other features that can be used to categorize people, such as gender and employment status.

Open access to data now available (edit: 13.12.2017)

Data set reported in Stanciu (2015) and Stanciu, Cohrs, Hanke, & Gavreliuc (2017) is now available to download, as well as it is the used study questionnaire and suggestion on how to compute scales for dimensions and sub-dimensions of stereotype content.

Likewise, data set reported in Stanciu & Vos (2017) as well as all relevant study materials are now available to download.

To access these files, please visit the Data page.


Chapter in upcoming Springer book series

Picture1_Mediation results

 Parallel mediation analysis of the effects of acculturation orientations and adaptation types on life satisfaction of Romanian MEAs in culturally distant countries. Maintain Home & Interest Host = two dimension of acculturation; Overall Well-Being = Life Satisfaction; Contextually-Bound Well-Being = Psychological Adaptation; numbers in-between brackets = standard errors; after “/” = values for Interest host; the coefficients on the direct lines from Maintain Home and Interest Host to Life Satisfaction indicate indirect effects (i.e., effect that remains after the effect of the explanatory factor is ruled out); N = 146; t p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .001.

Planned for publication in December 2017, I have a chapter contribution in the book edited by Dr. Radosveta Dimitrova “Well-being of youth and emerging adults across cultures: Novel approaches and findings from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America”. (see table of contents here, read more about the book here).

In the chapter, I argue for a clearer operationalization of well-being in migration research. I present a brief literature review and initial empirical evidence in showing that literature to date has been interchangeably, albeit incorrectly in my opinion, used measures of ‘psychological adaptation’ and  ‘life satisfaction’  to arrive at the concept of well-being. My proposition is that, in fact, ‘psychological adaptation’ measures tap into migrants’ well-being that is context-dependent and, furthermore, that ‘life satisfaction’ measures tap into an overall indicator of migrants’ well-being.

The chapter abstract can be read below:

In addition to developmental challenges, migration during emerging adulthood can pose unique obstacles to individuals’ positive well-being. This chapter proposes distinguishing between two types of migrant emerging adults’ (MEAs) well-being (overall and contextually-bound) as one way to examine the influences of these interferences. A brief review of the literature and empirical support is provided for this claim among samples of Romanian MEAs in Europe (N = 215), an ethnic group that is under-represented in the literature. The overall well-being of MEAs can be studied as a result of an association between acculturation orientation and adaptation (as contextually-bound well-being and sociocultural), two variables especially relevant for MEAs living in culturally distant host societies. The findings suggest there may be different templates of well-being depending on whether migrants live in similar or distant host cultures compared to their home cultures. Furthermore, the role of context is discussed and it is suggested that the distinction between the two types of well-being can provide a more accurate insight for practitioners with regards to whether age-related or migration-related issues are problematic to migrants’ well-being and therefore require assistance.