Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Implicit Bias toward People with Mental Illness: A Systematic Literature Review

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Implicit Bias toward People with Mental Illness: A Systematic Literature Review

Article excerpt

For rehabilitation professionals to be most effective in working with consumers who have mental illness, professionals must be aware of barriers that could prevent these consumers from achieving their goals. Stigma serves as one such barrier for the nearly 43.7 million people in the United States who have psychiatric diagnoses (Corrigan & Kosyluk, 2014; National Institute of Mental Health, 2012). Indeed, numerous researchers have noted an array of stigmatizing beliefs toward people with mental illness (Parcesepe & Cabassa, 2013). Three of the most common stereotypes have included beliefs that people with mental illness are dangerous (e.g., Corrigan et al., 2002), incompetent (e.g., Sadler, Meagor, & Kaye, 2012), and responsible for the onset and offset of their condition (e.g., Corrigan et al., 2002; Ebneter & Latner, 2013). Consequently, individuals who endorse these stereotypical beliefs may experience emotions such as fear, pity, and anger (Corrigan et al., 2002; Corrigan, Markowitz, Watson, Rowan, & Kubiak, 2003). These emotions, in turn, could lead to the avoidance, segregation, and coercive treatment of people with mental illness (Corrigan et al., 2002; Corrigan et al., 2003).

Although the research on bias toward people with mental illness has primarily focused on explicit, consciously reported negative attitudes and beliefs (e.g., Angermeyer & Dietrich, 2006), recent research has indicated that people also hold implicit, unconscious prejudices and stereotypes toward these individuals (e.g., Brener, Rose, von Hippel, & Wilson, 2013). Understanding the implicit form of bias is critical since in some contexts, implicit biases have greater impact on discrimination than explicit biases. Rehabilitation professionals would particularly benefit from an awareness of the common implicit biases against their consumers and how those biases may interfere with the rehabilitation process. Therefore, the purpose of the current paper was to examine the evidence for implicit bias toward people with mental illness with an eye toward recommendations for future research based on the interventions that may be effective for reducing the implicit negative biases that people express toward these individuals.

Biases toward People with Mental Illness

When reviewing research on biases toward members of minority groups, terms such as attitude, stereotype, prejudice, discrimination, and stigma often become lumped together. However, to fully grasp the application of what is being studied with implicit and explicit attitude measures, understanding the distinction between these terms is important. Hence, a brief definition of each term is provided below:

* Attitude: An attitude is a person's judgment or appraisal of a person or an object as being favored or disfavored (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993).

* Implicit prejudice: Implicit prejudice (intergroup bias in particular) occurs when a person holds a preference and more positive evaluation of his or her own in-group than members of an out-group (Dovidio, Hewstone, Glick, & Esses, 2010).

* Stereotype: A stereotype is "an inference made about individuals based on their assignment to a particular group or category" (Jones & Corrigan, 2014, p. 12).

* Prejudice: Prejudice is a person's emotional reaction to a target as the result of a stereotype about the person (Jones & Corrigan, 2014).

* Discrimination: Discrimination occurs when a person engages in negative behaviors toward a person because of stereotyping and prejudice (Jones & Corrigan, 2014).

* Stigma: Stigma refers to "an attribute that is deeply discrediting" and causes a stigmatized individual to be perceived as "not quite human," as inferior, and as having blemishes of character (Goffman, 1963).

Explicit vs. Implicit Prejudice toward People with Mental Illness

Broadly speaking, prejudice toward mental illness has important consequences for individuals with psychiatric diagnoses. …

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