Prime and prejudice: Brief stereotypical media representations can increase prejudicial attitudes and behaviour towards people with schizophrenia [2018]

Prejudice against people with mental illnesses remains a significant problem in the United Kingdom and in many other countries despite sustained efforts by governments and charities. This is particularly so for people with schizophrenia, who are seen as dangerous and unpredictable. The present study investigated the effect of brief, casual, stereotypical representations on prejudice and behavioural intentions towards people with schizophrenia. Participants viewed Halloween costumes in an online environment under the guise of product research. In the experimental condition, they were exposed to a “Psycho Ward” Halloween outfit identical to one sold online by a leading supermarket chain in the United Kingdom. Participants in the control condition saw a neutral “pumpkin” Halloween costume. Exposure to the Psycho Ward outfit resulted in more negative behavioural intentions towards people with schizophrenia, mediated by increased prejudice. These findings confirm and extend earlier research that implicates adverse media stereotypes in the persistence of prejudice against people with mental illness. More research is warranted on the relative effects of different influences on community attitudes to mental illness.

Jonathan W.P. Bowman, Keon West
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 13 December 2018