Some have argued that stigmatization of individuals with intellectual disabilities may be rooted in the terms used to describe the condition, others have maintained that stigma may be inherent in the condition itself, not in the label used. This study took advantage of a recent change in terminology introduced in Israel to examine differences in stigma attached to the term intellectual disability in comparison with the previous term, mental retardation. An online questionnaire, based on the Multidimensional Attitudes Scale (Findler, Vilchinsky, & Werner, 2007), was completed by 226 lay persons. Participants were presented with a questionnaire using either the term intellectual disability or mental retardation and asked to report on stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination in response to a vignette. Moderate levels of stigma were found. An indirect effect was found between dangerousness and withdrawal behavior mediated by negative affect, and between low ability and withdrawal behavior mediated by negative affect. The term used was not found to be associated with stigma. It is possible that previous stigma attached to the term, mental retardation, was transferred to the new term, intellectual disability.

Werner, S., & Abergel, M.
Stigma and Health, 3(4), 2018

What’s in a label? The stigmatizing effect of intellectual disability by any other name [2018]