Individuals with psychiatric problems are subjected to highly damaging stigma. Some research suggests this stigma may extend to associates (e.g., family, friends), who themselves report being devalued, avoided, and rejected. The research literature on associative stigma is largely qualitative, and extant quantitative research has utilized only explicit measures which are notably weakened by self-presentational motives. In the current study, 95 undergraduates were randomized to hear one of two audio recorded vignettes pertaining to a fictional mother of a child with either autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or severe asthma. Participants then completed an Implicit Association Test capturing implicit evaluations of the fictional mother and two separate measures of explicit stigma. No group differences for either explicit measure emerged. However, the predicted group difference in implicit stigma emerged, such that the mother of the child with ASD was evaluated less positively than the mother of the child with severe asthma. Implicit-explicit correlations were not statistically significant but in the small to medium range according to effect size conventions. This study appears to offer the first evidence of implicit associative stigma in the psychiatric domain. It also points to a variety of interesting avenues for further illumination of this potentially important phenomenon.
Thibodeau, Ryan and Finley, Juliet R., "On Associative Stigma: Implicit and Explicit Evaluations of a Mother of a Child with Autism" (2016). Psychology Faculty/Staff Publications. Paper 12.
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Presented at the 28th Annual Convention o the Association for Psychological Science, Chicago, IL.