Think I Can’t, IThink I Can’t! The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Older People

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Think I Can’t, Think I Can’t! The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Older People

Most of us are familiar with the children’s story of The Little Engine That Could, in which the engine on the train said, “Ithink I can,   think Ican!”when he was trying  to pull the train up a steep hill.Used for years as an example of the power of positive thinking, the  reverse side of the story might be that If people think that they cannot do something, that task becomes more difficult, and   perhaps  even impossible, for them to accomplish. Sociologists have a similar corollary to this   story of the train, and the idea has widely  referred to as the Thomas theorem or the self-fulfilling prophecy. As defined in Chapter S,.a self-fulfilling prophecy is a false belief  r prediction that produces behavior that makes  the originally false belief come true. The original statement of this prophecy,  known as the “Thomas theorem” because of its possible originator, W. I.Thomas, is  as follows: “If[people] define situations as real,  hey are   real in their consequences:

How does this statement apply to the lives of older people? Researchers have found a number of ways In which this statement is  applicable to the way that many people  perceive the aging process and the way that many older people people may view themselves in   actions that more highly  value youth over older people. The Norwegian sociologist Per Erik Solem (2008) explored the influence   f   he work environment on how age-related subjective cha occurred in red  in people’s workability. He found that although age and   physical health are obviously associated with decline  in the work ability of older individuals. stereotypes and self-stereotypes   negative assumptions about themselves that are embraced by Individuals who are being stereotyped)  about aging are also   important in producing a decline in a person’s work ability. According to Salem (2008:  44), objective capacities such as physical  strength and en

durance may be important when it comes to performing certain tasks, such as lifting heavy equipment or nursing bedridden  patients; however, “what workers believe they are able to do, influences to what extent they use their potential of objective   abilities: In other words, if older individuals subjectively define themselves as less able than they actually are, given their objective  potential, then they  may be less likely to perform a task that might be quite within their capabilities to do. Although changing  associated with aging will always be a factor in some types of Job performance, including those that require quick reactions or   wavy physical work, many occupations can benefit from the experience and  expertise of older workers because of their job- relevant knowledge or skILLs.For This reason, Salem (2008) suggests that older workers should be provided with new learning opportunities and a chance to maintain their subjective  work ability throughout their careers. Sociology not only helps  s to see that cultural changes  are needed If we are to rid ourselves and our society of age-based negative stereotypes about oldindividualsuals,  but it also reminds us that the self-fulfilling prophecy is applicable at any stage of life.”Ithink I can”ls a positive  psychosocial  force, whereas “I Think Ican Is a negative for

Reflect & Analyze

Can you think of periods of time In your life when a negative stereotype and or self-stereotype may have contributed to your not   doing something that you had the objective ability to do? In addition to issues pertaining to age, do you think the Thomas theorem  might also be applicable to problems associated with race, class, and or gender?

canrly when they reach the end of this period of their lives. As previously discussed, those who had few opportunities available  arlier in life tend to become increasingly drsadvantaged as they grow older.