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Ageism is real, professor explains

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
11 September 2018 1 minute readShare
Young, old, ageism, battle, armwrestle

Older Australians have long complained about age-related discrimination in the workplace. Now, a psychology professor has said they are onto something – and explained why.

In May this year, the Benevolent Society found that age is commonly used to discount people in the workplace, and deny them jobs altogether.

And in a LinkedIn post circulating late last year, one hiring manager outlined the resistance and open hostility they faced after taking on a mature age employee – who turned out to be a perfect fit for the business.

Psychology Professor Mike Nicholls of Flinders University suggests the reason for this pertains to the dating game – that humans have a predisposition to “automatically” prefer the company of others their own age rather than someone older.

“While our response is also affected by ‘high-level’ social conditioning, we still seem to have an in-built subconscious reaction to even an ambiguous face or figure,” Professor Nicholls explained.

“This explains why young people tend to hang around with other young people, while older people associate with old and young.

Professor Nicholls cited the famed image below by cartoonist W.E. Hill, in part of a study in the US, which found that most people tended to identify the woman that more closely resembled their own age.

“The effect of this of this in society is that it makes it more difficult to encourage or even enforce inclusive behaviours, even in the workplace,” he said.

[For the record, maybe I am an old soul at heart: the older woman immediately stood out for me, despite being a 30-something. What do you see?]

Ageism is real, professor explains
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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