Volume 4

Effects of Labeling on Perceived Traits and Desirability of Individuals with Mental Illness

Annemarie Anziano

This study investigated the effects of stereotyping the mentally ill as deviant and their perceived traits and desirability as part of the community. Participants (n = 120) were presented with one of four scenarios portraying a hypothetical neighbor with either a diagnosis of schizophrenia or asthma and receiving or not receiving treatment. The participants were then asked to rate the scenario characters’ characteristics, the need for social distance and dangerousness, as well as their own knowledge of mental illness, degree of empathy, and experience with the mentally ill. In general, results showed that the schizophrenic character was rated as more deviant than the asthmatic character. With respect to perceived degree of dangerousness, characters under treatment for physical or mental illness were viewed as equally non-dangerous. However, a physically ill character was viewed as more dangerous in the community than a schizophrenic patient. Finally, the schizophrenic not under treatment was viewed as least dangerous and the untreated asthmatic as most dangerousness. Knowledge of mental illness and interest with human services did impact perceptions.

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