The Impact of Causal Attribution on Stigmatizing Attitudes Toward a Person Who Stutters

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Purpose: This study investigated the impact of providing low control (biological) and high control (psychobehavioral) causal explanations for stuttering on a variety of stigma related variables including blame, anger, social distance, stereotypes, dislike, sympathy, willingness to help, and perceptions of potential for recovery for a hypothetical person who stutters. Method: One hundred and sixty-five university students read one of three vignettes describing a person who stutters with different descriptions about the cause of stuttering (low control, high control, and a control group in which no explanation was given) and answered a series of self-report measures assessing stigmatizing attitudes and perceived potential for recovery. Results: The controllable explanation for stuttering led to more blame compared to the uncontrollable explanation and no explanation. The controllable explanation resulted in higher levels of anger and stereotypes compared to no explanation. There were no significant differences between uncontrollable explanations and no explanation on any of the stigma related variables of interest. Uncontrollable explanations increased prognostic pessimism compared to controllable explanations. Self-reported familiarity and closeness with people who stutter was significantly related to more positive attitudes toward a hypothetical person who stutters. Conclusions: Reducing the belief that stuttering is ultimately caused by psychobehavioral factors will reduce blame toward people who stutter. However, providing biological explanations for stuttering is not effective for reducing stigma compared to no explanation at all, and could increase prognostic pessimism. Biological explanations for stuttering should be provided to inform clients and society about current research findings, however this information must be given carefully and be balanced with evidence that people who stutter can make great progress with appropriate, personalized therapy that addresses the multidimensionality of the disorder. Learning outcomes: As a result of reading this paper, readers should be able to: (1) describe how causal attributions impact attitudes toward individuals with disabilities (2) summarize the effects of providing a biological explanation for stuttering on stigmatizing attitudes toward a person who stutters (3) summarize the effects of providing a psychobehavioral explanation for stuttering on stigmatizing attitudes toward a person who stutters, (4) discuss how familiarity and closeness toward people who stutter relates to stigmatizing attitudes toward a person who stutters.



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