Are There Pointless Methods for the Study of Ageist Prejudice?

By: Manuel Torres Sahli  

How do different methods complement (‘This does A, that does B, then we put them together.’), compete with (‘This does the same, but better.’), or confront (‘That does not even address the problem; this does.’) each other? The first publications on ageism — using that term — relied mostly on descriptions of real-life episodes of discrimination, and publicly available statistics of the situation of older (and younger) people. When social psychological traditions of research brought experimental settings and questionnaire surveys to the field, some ‘insider’ authors initially disputed the usefulness of these ‘newcomer’ methods. Nonetheless, the discussions about these allegations did not develop further into proper justifications or criticism of those methods — or others. Approaches like discourse analysis and sociolinguistics have been paid even less attention, and their appropriateness is barely discussed. So is the case with many others. In general, methodological reflexivity in studies of ageism seems widely omitted in open discussion, though it is probably developed in closed conversations within research communities. Bringing these debates to the broader community could serve to improve the choice and adaptation of methods to the specific nature of ageism. Collective reflexion on our methods could improve integrative interpretations of our results. I propose to actively discuss which are the (dis)advantages of using the diverse methods — e.g. surveys, experiments, individual or group interviews, analysis of media, naturalistic observation, etc — for the study of age prejudice, and in which sense these methods complement, compete with, or confront each other.

Ageism, Age Prejudice, Research Methods, Research Reflexivity, Methodology, Interdisciplinary Research
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Focused Discussion

Manuel Torres Sahli

Doctoral Researcher, Social Sciences, Loughborough University, United Kingdom
United Kingdom