Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 3 Issue 3 (August 1993), Pages fmi-fmi, 173-234

Does medics' social identification increase handicap for mentally retarded patients? (pages 183-195)


Briefs about mentally retarded people are more negative than briefs about other social categories; professionals, such as medical doctors evaluate them most negatively of all. It was hypothesized (a) that medics' beliefs about mentally retarded people are mediated by psychological salience of their clinical social identification, rather than by personal characteristics that medics happen to share and (b) that such beliefs will bias decisions, rather than enhance accuracy. Forty‐five doctors and medical students were randomly assigned to conditions designed to enhance salience of their shared clinical social identification or individual self‐perceptions. Subjects completed semantic differentials about mentally retarded people and distinguished between slides of ‘mentally retarded’ and ‘normal’ children. Beliefs of subjects in the medical condition were significantly more negative than those in the personal condition. A signal detection analysis revealed no difference between conditions in subjects' ability to distinguish between children but showed that subjects in the medical condition were significantly more likely to judge a child ‘mentally retarded’ when in doubt. Results were discussed within an information processing framework and supported the idea that a salient clinical social identity can mediate beliefs that are likely to handicap patients.

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