Volume 10

Examining Stigma: Perceptions of Homelessness and Illness

Kathleen Sorabella and Nicole Rovinelli

Modern day stigmas that carry a mark of shame tend to be symptoms or behaviors incongruent with mainstream society. Stigma limits social support as well as crucial services and opportunities in a community. Current research falls short in examining stigmatizing perceptions against people who have a mental or physical illness, and whether housing status reduces or increases perceived stigma. This study examines the perceptions of stigma in respect to perceived dangerousness and a desire for distance from people who have cancer, schizophrenia, are homeless, or live independently. One hundred fifty-five college students read a brief scenario, rated their level of perceived dangerousness, and desire for social distance from the scenario character. Results indicated that participants viewed people who have schizophrenia as more dangerous, and demanded greater social distance than from a person with cancer. Results further suggest that in the United States increased contact with stigmatized individuals may reduce negative evaluations in the long term.

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