An article based on MA Psychology alum Becky Widrick’s thesis has been published in Aging & Mental Health, Volume 14, Issue 4 (May 2010), pages 375-385:
Age-related stigma and the golden section hypothesis
Authors: Rebekah M. Widrick; Jonathan D. Raskin
Objectives: The present study used the golden section hypothesis, which predicts that people organize information in a ratio of 61.8% positive to 38.2% negative, to examine age-related identities. It was predicted that people would rate identities of the aging population in accordance with a reverse golden section hypothesis. That is, people would assign negative ratings 61.8% of the time and positive ratings 38.2% of the time. Method: A golden section survey was completed online by 148 participants. Along the top of the survey were 15 identities: child, elderly person, grandparent, middle-aged adult, nurse, musician, adolescent, senior citizen, business person, lawyer, secretary, mental patient, homeless person, retired person, and self. On the left side of the survey were 12 adjective pairs with well-established positive and negative poles: generous-stingy, pleasant-unpleasant, true-false, fair-unfair, active-passive, energetic-lethargic, sharp-dull, excitable-calm, strong-weak, bold-timid, hard-soft, and rugged-delicate. Results: Elderly person and senior citizen were rated in a manner consistent with the reverse golden section hypothesis. In keeping with previous findings, the self was rated positively precisely 71% of the time. Combined ratings of the remaining identities were consistent with the traditional golden section hypothesis. A prior finding that mental patient and homeless person would produce a reverse golden section pattern was not replicated. Conclusion: Certain elderly identities evoke a reverse golden section rating pattern. This suggests that such identities have stigma associated with them. Because American society has coupled aging to stigma, people have come to associate negative connotations with certain age-related terms.