The stigma of a mental illness label attitudes towards individuals with mental illness

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Carolyn Rocker Phelps


The present study examined whether stigma toward individuals with mental illness will evidence itself in job performance evaluations. To enhance this potential effect of mental illness stigma, an additional difference" of race was included as a factor that may affect perception of functioning and attitude towards the individual with a mental illness diagnosis. Additionally, general professed attitudes towards mental illness and direct attitudes when one is exposed to an individual with a mental illness diagnosis were considered. Participants were drawn from the undergraduate population of a midsize private university and responded to three questionnaires after viewing a video clip of an individual experiencing a moderately stressful day at work. Half the participants were given the information that the individual they viewed was undergoing treatment for a mental illness, and the other half were not given this information. Some of the participants viewed an actor of the same race, while the others viewed an actor of a different race. Data were analyzed by condition and race. The results of this study did not support the hypotheses. Contrary to expectations, information that the actor had been diagnosed with a mental illness did not influence job ratings or attitudes toward mental illness. Similarly, results indicated that participants' evaluations were not affected by similarities and differences in the races of the observed and the observer. Finally, attitudes to mental illness generally did predict participants' direct attitudes toward an individual who was presented as having a mental illness. Prior contact and experience with individuals with mental illness did not moderate these results. Possible explanations for the outcome of the study are discussed."


Mental illness Public opinion, Job evaluation Social aspects, Mentally ill Employment Social aspects, Stigma (Social psychology)

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Copyright © 2012, author