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A Theory of Cognitive Style and Individual Differences in Attitudes Toward Death and the Future KAE

Baker, A. Harvey
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Style, Death, Individual Differences, Perception, Personality Assessment, Self Concept, Self Expression


The Kinesthetic Aftereffects task (KAE), a perceptual-tactual size estimation test, was used to differentiate people who presumably react strongly to, or perceive as relatively more intense, many types of stimulation (and thus avoid high levels of stimulation ("Augmenters") from those who are less reactive to stimulation and thus seek out relatively more stimulation in their lives ("Reducers"). The KAE was given to 40 people over age 60 who were living independently in low income housing in the Detroit, Michigan, area. Half of the subjects were White and half were Black Americans; half of each racial group were men and half women. Subjects were then given interviews which included in-depth questioning about the future and their perceptions of death. As hypothesized, the Augmenters planned ahead less, less frequently mentioned their deaths, and more often described a personified death as an ordinary person, compared to Reducers. Other studies cited indicate that Reducers found life relatively easier and were more highly engaged in social interaction than Augmenters. It is suggested that future research on aging take these Augmenter-Reducer differences, and individual differences in general, into account.

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