An Experimental Test of Stigma Communication Content with a Hypothetical Infectious Disease Alert

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Recent interest in the role of communication in stigma creation, diffusion, and copying has inspired theorizing. This study presents the first empirical test of one model of stigma communication (Smith, 2007), with a hypothetical infectious disease alert. This study uses an experiment (N=333) to illustrate how changing several words and monitoring four cognitive and affective reactions and a personality trait becomes predictive of almost half (R 2=.49) of the variance in support for intervention policies, including removing and isolating infected persons, forcing treatment, and generating a publicly accessible map of infected persons. Message content and reactions also predicted perceptions of normative stigma beliefs toward infected persons (R 2=.26) and the likelihood of disseminating content of the alert to others (R 2=.15). Results generally support the model of stigma communication and indicate places for refinement.

Keywords: Experiment; Infectious Disease; Stigma; Stigmatization; Transmission

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2012

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