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Elder maltreatment is a significant problem in the United States affecting about 10% of older Americans. According to the Stereotype Content Model, elders are seen as warm but lacking competence. This also influences the stereotype that all elders have some sort of cognitive deficit causing the assumptions that an elder may lack certain cognitive abilities and may not be credible enough to provide an accurate abuse claim. The purpose of this study was to examine jurors’ perceptions of elder maltreatment when the elder has a cognitive impairment, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. The approach that was used in this study was an experimental mock juror design. The participants read a fictional elder abuse criminal trial summary about a 76-year-old woman who claimed she was mistreated in her nursing home. They then completed questionnaires measuring their verdicts, as well as trial ratings, and attitudes towards elders. There was a main effect of cognitive ability and a main effect of harm type where participants were less likely to render a guilty verdict and had lower victim ratings in the Alzheimer’s condition (vs. no cognitive deficit) and also the physical abuse condition (vs. neglect). Additionally, there was an interaction found with participants rating their anger towards the victim higher when she had no cognitive deficit and was physically abused. Lastly, there was a negative correlation between participants’ ageism levels and pro-victim ratings. We discuss the findings with regard to legal implications, such as jury selection in an elder maltreatment case.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. Nesa Wasarhaley, Thesis Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Spievak, Committee Member

Dr. John Calicchia, Committee Member

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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