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Do older adults underestimate their actual computer knowledge?

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This work examined the hypothesis that elderly people are less confident than young people in their own computer knowledge. This was done by having 49 young (M = 22.6 years) and 42 older (M = 68.6 years) participants to assess their global self-efficacy beliefs and to make item-by-item prospective (feeling-of-knowing: FOK) and retrospective (confidence level: CL) judgments about their knowledge in the two domains of computers and general knowledge. The latter served as a control domain. Item difficulty was equated across age groups in each domain. In spite of this age equivalence in actual performance, differences were found in FOK and CL ratings for computers but not for general knowledge, with older people being less confident than young people in their own computer knowledge. The greater age difference in ratings observed in the computer domain, as compared with the general domain, was even greater for the FOK than for the CL judgments. Statistical control of age differences in global self-efficacy beliefs in the computer domain (poorer in the older participants, but not in the general domain), eliminated age differences in FOK and CL judgments in the same domain. These findings confirm earlier ones. They suggest that underconfidence in their relevant abilities is one possible source of the difficulties that the elderly may encounter in mastering new computer technologies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratoire Travail & Cognition, UMR 5551 du CNRS, MDR, Université Toulouse le Mirail, 5 allées Antonio Machado, 31058 Toulouse Cedex, France

Publication date: 2002-07-01

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