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As an increasing number of older adults return to college, the debate over using students as research subjects must be reconsidered. This study explicitly compares the results of an advertising study conducted with three separate samples: a national, randomly drawn sample of adults, a sample of traditional undergraduate college students, and a sample of working adults who attend undergraduate college classes in the evenings. The results suggest that, while traditional undergraduate students are not appropriate surrogates for ‘real consumers,’ older, non-traditional students may produce results that are quite similar to the results obtained from the general population. Given the results of this research, it is clear that the use of traditional student subjects in advertising research should be avoided. However, non-traditional working adult undergraduate students seem to be a reasonable surrogate for consumers.
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