Background and objectives
Correlational research shows that belief in a continuum of psychiatric problems predicts decreased public stigma. However, the correlational findings fail to inform the stigma reduction prospects of manipulating continuum beliefs. All extant experimental work has been executed online. This study examined effects of a laboratory-based continuum intervention on behavioral and self-report measures of psychiatric stigma.
Sixty-nine undergraduates believed that they would meet a man with schizophrenia. They then read a bogus scientific article that attested to a categorical view of schizophrenia, a continuum view, or that merely described schizophrenia. Some participants then completed a task that required reflection on their differences from (categorical group) or similarities to (continuum group) the man with schizophrenia. Participants eventually moved to an adjacent room and sat in one of several seats that varied in their proximity to a seat ostensibly occupied by the man with schizophrenia.
The continuum intervention decreased self-reported social distance and the categorical intervention increased endorsement of damaging stereotypes. Seat selection was unaffected by our manipulation, but we obtained evidence of significant links to validated stigma measures.
Our sample was small, and our behavioral stigma measure could be modified to maximize variability in participants' seat selection.
The study offers modest support of the stigma reduction effect of continuum belief intervention. It offers new evidence of the pernicious consequences of interventions that inflate perceptions of the “otherness” of individuals with psychiatric problems. Finally, it shines new light on stigma-related behavior measurable in the laboratory.
Thibodeau, Ryan; Shanks, Lindsay N.; and Smith, Brian P. (2017). "Do continuum beliefs reduce schizophrenia stigma? Effects of a laboratory intervention on behavioral and self-reported stigma." Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 58, 29-35.
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