Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication

First Advisor

James M. Honeycutt


The purpose of the present dissertation was to examine some of the perceptions younger adults have about the elderly, communication behaviors during a cross-generational interaction, and evaluations of the interaction. The present investigation used an experimental design that included the following two independent variables: (1) gender and (2) amount of interaction (or contact) a younger adult has with elderly people. Subjects were categorized into high, medium, or low contact groups based on self-reports. The study consisted of an initial survey, an experiment (younger subjects interviewed by an elderly confederate), and a postinteraction survey. The gender and contact factors were investigated in relation to the following dependent variables: (1) a self-generated elderly prototype; (2) hesitation phenomena, including "ah," "non-ah," and silent pauses during the interage interview; (3) proxemics during the interage interview; and (4) interaction evaluations following the interview. Results indicated that there were significant gender differences for the complexity and redundancy of self-generated elderly prototypes. Females generated more complex elderly prototypes than males. A multivariate analysis of variance evidenced significant gender differences in hesitation phenomena; females exhibited fewer hesitations than males. There were significant univariate gender differences for "ah" pauses as well, indicating females used fewer "ah" pauses. There was no support for gender effects on proxemics or interaction evaluations. No significant results were found due to differences in amount of contact with elderly individuals. Conclusions for the present study are discussed in regard to prototypes, verbal fluency, nonverbal expectancy violations, kinkeeping, and younger adults' general perceptions of elderly and judgements of elderly conversational partners.