The Effect of Context on the Silver Ceiling: A Role Congruity Perspective on Prejudiced Responses
Three studies examined role incongruity as a source of age bias in hiring decisions. Building upon previous research demonstrating contextual variation in prejudice, we predicted that prejudiced responses emerge particularly in contexts where group stereotypes misalign with the requirements of social roles. Findings indicate that (a) older workers are particularly penalized in occupational contexts that are quickly changing; (b) older workers are perceived as less adaptable than younger workers; and (c) the tendency to prefer younger than older workers more for a dynamic than a stable company is mediated by perceptions of adaptability. Finally, adaptability perceptions better predicted hiring bias than did global evaluations of older people and levels of contact with older people. These experiments provide initial evidence that perceived fit to roles is a determinant of contextual variation in prejudiced responses.