Research suggests that stigma lies on both a conscious, explicit level and an automatic, implicit level. This research investigated the explicit and implicit stigma surrounding two mental illnesses: depression and bulimia. 62 participants included college students in introductory Psychology courses, male (n=16) and female (n = 45). Participants took two Implicit Association Tests (IATs), one investigating general mental illness stigma versus physical illness (on the dimension of blameworthiness) and the other directly investigating bulimia stigma versus depression stigma (also on the dimension of blameworthiness). Then, participants were given either a vignette about a female with bulimia or depression and asked to fill out explicit measures about their attitudes towards the character. Analyses revealed stronger implicit stigma than explicit stigma. Stronger implicit associations between blameworthy and bulimia (vs. depression) were also associated with higher explicit scores of anger, social distancing, and personal stigma. Other analyses revealed some gender and condition differences in the explicit measures with men in the depression condition attributing more general stigma and personal responsibility to the character in the vignette. Further analyses showed weak correlations between implicit stigma on the second IAT and explicit stigma by condition (bulimia or depression). Further research could test whether the order of measures (i.e. doing the IATs first and then the explicit measures or vice versa) affects how participants report stigma. Implications for stigma reduction are discussed.
Morse, Emily, "Implicit and Explicit Stigma Surrounding Bulimia and Depression in a College Population" (2013). Psychology Honors Papers. 33.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.