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Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (BS)
Department of Psychology
Lay concepts and causal attribution theories enable lay people to make sense of their social situations, more specifically, their encounters with those suffering from mental disorders by providing informational frameworks and explanations upon which to interpret their circumstances. Thus, lay concepts and causal theories about mental illness play a role in beliefs and behaviors toward those individuals. The current study surveyed 113 undergraduate students to investigate relations between knowledge of mental illness as well as causal attributions and explicit stigma associated with depression and schizophrenia, such as perceived dangerousness and desire for social distance. Scores for schizophrenia and depression were significantly correlated with one another on multiple variables, which led to the development of composite variables for knowledge, causality, familiarity, perceived, dangerousness, social distance, and benevolence. Several hierarchical regressions were performed to analyze the relationships between the variables. Knowledge and causality for mental illness were significantly correlated (r(112)=.28, p= .002). Higher scores of familiarity and knowledge were both associated with lower scores of perceived dangerousness. Gender significantly predicted social distance and benevolence, such that females reported lower values on both measures. The results of this study may have important potential implications in the area of educational reform. Insight regarding perceptions of depression and schizophrenia can be utilized in informing the public about these illnesses in a way that reduces the stigma of depression and schizophrenia to facilitate social acceptance of people with mental illnesses and of them seeking treatment.
Bynum, Kallen A., "The Influence of Lay Concepts and Causal Theories on Definitions of Mental Illness and Social Outcomes" (2015). Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current. 3.