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Attitudes towards mental illness

    Studies investigating attitudes towards mental illness have tried to determine "demographic and personality characteristics of respondents, cultural factors, characteristics of the mentally ill and their behaviour etc." (Norman & Malla 1983, p.45) which influence attitudes towards the mentally ill. This research has provided the basis for the design of education programmes aimed at improving attitudes towards the mentally ill in various settings with the effectiveness of such programmes being able to be determined by longitudinal studies which measure changes in community attitudes towards the mentally ill. Preferred social distance to the mentally ill is one way in which attitudes towards mental illness are expressed.
     Norman and Malla (1983) investigated adolescents' component attitudes to mental illness and found social distance to be positively related to variables perception of mental illness and belief in medical treatment and negatively related to variables prognosis and belief in psychosocial treatment. Further, Norman and Malla (1983) found that adolescent females prefer less social distance to the mentally ill than adolescent males.
     These findings are contrasted by Trute, Tefft and Segall (1989) who found attitudes regarding personal contact (preferred social distance) negatively related to overall experience of mental illness and positively related to perception of relative dangerousness and age. Regarding perception of relative dangerousness, some studies have shown paranoid schizophrenics to be among those least accepted in the community (Arkar & Eker 1992; McPherson & Cocks 1983).
     Previous research on the question of what factors contribute to attitudes towards the mentally ill and, in particular, preferred social distance has been inadequate in that individual studies appear not to have captured all relevant variables. For instance, it is unclear from the above findings whether preferred social distance can be attributed to the variables identified by Norman and Malla (1983) or those identified by Trute, Tefft and Segall (1989) as questions arose as to whether adults' attitudes towards mental illness would differ from those of adolescents in the Norman and Malla (1983) study and whether differences in preferred social distance and belief that the mentally ill can return to normal can be attributed to gender or type of experience of mental illness.
     By repeating Norman and Malla's (1983) measurement of the components of attitudes towards a paranoid schizophrenic (described in a vignette), on adult subjects and combining it with the measurement of subjects' experience of mental illness, a clearer picture may emerge on these questions.
It was hypothesised that
(1) the more a person is judged to be mentally ill the greater will be the preferred
     social distance to that person;
(2) gender differences in attitudes to mental illness will be evident in that:
     (a) females will prefer lower social distance to the mentally ill than males;
     (b) females will have a greater belief that the mentally ill can return to
          normal (believed prognosis) than males;
(3) persons with high experience of mental illness will prefer lower social distance
     to the mentally ill than those with low experience of mental illness.
© 1998 Monash University



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The effect of feedback on illusions

    Studies have shown that feedback can improve illusion task performance (Brosvic, Farrelly, Rebele, Ribardo, Gutowski, Kafer, & Dihoff, 1993; Brosvic, Farrelly, Risser, Shander, Clayton, Sypek, Kafer, & Dihoff, 1993; Brosvic, Rowe-Boyer, & Dihoff, 1991; Rowe-Boyer & Brosvic, 1990; Winer, Cottrell, & Weinbaum, 1993). Rowe-Boyer and Brosvic (1990) identified feedback as the "most effective factor in correcting" (p. 575) "inaccurate judgmental and routine problem-solving strategies that are active during the estimation process" (p. 575) with regard to the Horizontal-Vertical illusion, a statement also supported by Brosvic and Cohen (1988) who found that intertrial feedback specifying the direction and magnitude of illusion significantly increased accuracy and decreased variability of estimations compared with those in the control condition.
     Research indicates that different types of feedback reduce the magnitude of illusion to varying degrees. The roles of motor and visual feedback in the Müller-Lyer and Horizontal-Vertical illusions have been investigated by Brosvic, Farrelly, Rebele, Ribardo, Gutowski, Kafer, and Dihoff (1993) who found that in the Horizontal-Vertical illusion motor feedback on its own contributed to the illusion decrement by 27% compared to visual feedback by 38%, whereas in the Müller-Lyer illusion motor feedback on its own contributed to the illusion decrement by 17% compared to visual feedback by 45%.
     The question arose whether or not verbal feedback would reduce the magnitude of these illusions and in this experiment it was hypothesised that the magnitude of the Müller-Lyer illusion would be less for people who received verbal feedback than for those who received no feedback.
© 1997 Monash University



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