Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Philip T. Yanos

Committee Members

Maria Hartwig

Elizabeth Jeglic

Patrick Corrigan

Deidre Anglin

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Cognitive Psychology | Social Psychology

Keywords

stigma, pragmatic inference, stereotypes

Abstract

In high-profile violent incidents, there appears to be a disproportionate focus on the perpetrator’s mental health status in relation to the incident (Angermeyer & Matschinger, 1996). Several studies have highlighted the biased nature of the media in reporting news on mental illness and its negative impact on general consensus (Corrigan et al., 2013; Wahl, 1992, 2003). Researchers have also suggested that the media is a significant source of knowledge for the public (Jorm, 2000; Wahl, 2003). Based on a social cognitive perspective, pragmatic inference and stereotype priming provide a framework to understand the reader’s comprehension. The current studies aimed to examine the underlying processes in reading comprehension, the impact of stereotypical beliefs regarding mental illness, and the potential impact of mood. Results from both studies generally supported the main effect of mental illness prime, and evidence of pragmatic inference underlying the layperson’s processing of news in the media. That is, lay people appear to remember gist of information, rather than accurate details, and this memory was also impacted by stereotypes that were activated by a priming stimulus. Additionally, results yielded large effect sizes across the main dependent memory measures. However, self-report attitudinal measures and information-processing styles were not significantly related to memory measures. Overall, the results suggest the significance of mentioning mental illness by the media and its repercussions in terms of propagating exaggerated stereotypes of mental illness among laypersons consuming the news. Other theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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