People in marginalized groups, such as the disabled or racial minorities, feel stigmatizedcondemned, feared, or excludedwhen other people stigmatize them. That's obvious. But they can also feel stigma when nobody blatantly discriminates against them or says a negative word.
These folks aren't paranoid, suggests a new study of HIV-positive people and their communities to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association of Psychological Science. Rather, they're picking up subtle clues from their communities.
"Society is changing when it comes to prejudice," says psychological scientist Carol Miller, who conducted the study with University of Vermont colleagues Kristin Grover, Janice Bunn, and Sondra Solomon. "Most people don't want to be prejudiced"yet the culture teaches us bias, and despite ourselves, "sometimes we express it. "
In the effort to suppress prejudice, motives vary. "Internally motivated" people value tolerance and abhor stereotyping. The "externally motivated" respond to social pressure. In either group, bias can "leak out," says Miller. But those who harbor more prejudice are more likely to experience anti-discriminatory norms as coercive, or "politically correct"and want to disregard them.
In an age where blatant discrimination is rare, how might these motivations, expressed by communities, affect their potential objects? To get at the answer, the researchers assessed various communities for the social conditions that allow their members with HIV/AIDS feel safeor notto disclose their disease to others.
The team recruited 203 New Englanders with HIV/AIDS. Most were men, and about half were gay or bisexual; they'd lived with the disease an average of 11 years. The participants answered 19 questions assessing their experiences of "enacted stigma" (for instance, "I have lost friends by telling them that I have HIV/AIDS") and their "disclosure concerns" ("I worry that people wh
|Contact: Keri Chiodo|
Association for Psychological Science