Conceptions of Mental Illness Among Caucasian Americans and Hispanic Americans

Barry, Caroline [Browse]
Senior thesis
78 pages


Comer, Ronald [Browse]
Allen, Lesley [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
Conceptions of mental illness shape social attitudes. They include causal attributions, recommended treatment options, prognostic optimism, perceived dangerousness, and desire for social distance from people with mental disorders. Sociocultural factors such as ethnicity and gender influence these conceptions of mental illness, and this study compares conceptions of four mental disorders across Caucasian Americans and Hispanic Americans, as well as men and women. A survey was used to collect data from users on Amazon Mechanical Turk. In the survey, four vignettes described individuals with symptoms and diagnoses of mental disorders that meet DSM-5 criteria: major depression, schizophrenia, alcohol use disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. After reading each vignette, respondents answered a series of questions about their conceptions of mental illness. Analysis revealed similarities across ethnicities on measures of causal attribution, recommended treatment, and likelihood of recovery, but significant differences on measures of desire for social distance and perceived dangerousness. With Hispanic Americans scoring significantly higher on desire for social distance and perceived dangerousness than Caucasian Americans, these findings call for stronger efforts to reduce stigma among Hispanic Americans, heighten awareness of mental illness, and most importantly, increase access to mental health services to ensure that those who need help feel comfortable asking for it. Other observed interactions and implications are discussed.

Supplementary Information