Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name





Dr. Meredith Meyer

First Committee Member

Dr. Michele Acker

Second Committee Member

Jessica Crossfield McIntosh


Stigma, Mental Illness, Psychopathology, Causal Attributions

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Health Psychology | Other Psychology | Social Psychology



Research has shown undeniable evidence of mental illness stigma. Stigma has been shown to reduce treatment seeking and negatively impact emotion and cognition in individuals with mental illness (Livingstone & Boyd, 2010). By discovering the driving forces behind stigma, treatment seeking and quality of life can be improved for individuals with mental illness. This study investigates the effect of knowledge, disorder type, and causal attribution on mental illness stigma. Specifically, participants were assigned to one of two conditions, knowledge or no knowledge. Knowledge conditions included information about a disorder (schizophrenia or depression, depending on disorder condition) such as definition, prevalence, symptoms, criteria for diagnosis, treatment, and common myths. The no knowledge condition lacked this information. Stigma was then measured. Stigma was measured as desired social distance from the affected individual, perceived responsibility, likeliness to help, perceived control, and perceived dangerousness. Additionally, subjects’ pre-existing causal attribution beliefs were measured by asking the extent to which subjects believed disorders arose from environmental vs. biogenetic origins. Knowledge was found to significantly reduce stigma levels for both depression and schizophrenia. Additionally, causal attribution was significantly positively associated with total stigma, with more biogenetic beliefs predicting higher stigma levels. Such results affirm the influence of knowledge and causal attribution on stigma levels and indicate variables that can be utilized in stigma reduction programs.