MENTAL ILLNESS BY VISUAL PERCEPTION
DANETTE M. PETERS
DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY
Missouri Western State University
The link between
stereotyping and mental illness was examined. The data showed
for each picture that was presented, significance was found. The
purpose of the examination was to find out if people, while
looking at a picture of another person determined them to be
mentally ill based solely on their appearance. Some persons were
known to be ill while other subjects were known not to be ill.
Based on the photographs people did stereotype these persons.
The results are
congruent with the stereotyping mentality of our society. We
have in our minds what a person with mental illness should look
like. This is stereotyping.
The link between
mental illness and stereotyping is not new. Mentally ill persons
are kept emotionally hidden away by the stereotypes that have
them ashamed. Stereotyping has its relationship between how
mentally ill people feel and how they are treated. When we see
someone that is dirty, pushing a shopping cart, holding a sign
stating they will work for food, we automatically go to the
place in our minds thinking, this person is sick, this person is
mentally ill (Kelly, 1999).
are certainly marked once someone views them as having mental
illness. The word marked is used because it is an isolation that
keeps them outcast by society. If a person has the courage to
divulge the secret of their illness to co-workers, employers, or
educators, it has a way of coming back to them negatively. Fear
of telling only compounds the problem. People with mental
illness know they will be stereotyped (Kelly, 1999).
people do overcome stereotyping of their illness and have
successful careers. Examples of careers held by these
individuals are, Doctors, Nurses, and Psychologists (Foderarol,
Embedded in our
society are unspoken beliefs towards mentally ill people,
stigmatizing beliefs Kahle and Piner (1984). Society needs more
awareness of the fact; persons with mental illness are just like
us. It should not be them and us. We should help any person we
can. People really do no want to get involved with persons
having mental illness Holtgraves and Socall (1992).
The purpose of
this study is to examine if a person looks at another and
stereotypes them by perceiving them as being mentally ill based
solely on appearance.
this study were students enrolled in two different Psychology
101 classes. The average number of surveys given out in each
Psychology 101 class was 45. These students are from an
undergraduate college in the state of Missouri. Enrollment of
this college is approximately 5,000 students.
used in this study were photographs of five different people.
Beside each photograph were three questions with an agree or
disagree answer. The questions were the same with each subject.
There were a total of 15 questions per survey per participant.
were given one survey. The students were to circle agree or
disagree beside each of the three questions that went with each
of the five persons of interest.
A five picture x
three question repeated measures ANOVA of within subjects
effects was calculated measuring how the students answered the
three questions based on visual perception. For question one, (f
(4,384) = 98.546 p < .001). For question two, (f (2, 192) =
10.462 p < 001). For question three, (f (8.768) = 21.07, p <
.001) with significance being found, the students did stereotype
the subjects based on visual perception. The percentage of
students voting yes to stereotyping is presented on the
histogram. See figure 1.
Looking at this
study, it showed people were stereotyped based on appearance.
The results gave the numbers; here the discussion will tell the
reality of the subjects that were in the study.
subject is mentally ill and he is not homeless. The second
subject is not mentally ill and he is not homeless. The second
person has two college degrees and lives with his wife.
subject is the most interesting one. He is mentally ill and is
not homeless. This person is John Forbes Nash. This person is
the individual by which the movie, “A Beautiful Mind” was made.
He is perhaps the most ill but scored low for being mentally
ill, based on his appearance.
fifth and the third subjects were within close proximity to each
other, as far as their appearance. It showed people really do
stereotype persons based on what they look like. The third
subject is not mentally ill and he is homeless. The fifth
subject is mentally ill and he is not homeless.
is correct, when we see someone dirty like subjects three and
five; we mark them as being mentally ill (Kelly, 1999).
question asked on was, if you would want to help that person.
The results were very good. Despite the literature that said,
people do not want to help or get involved with persons with
mental illness, the population examined did want to help.
Compassion was steady across the board Holtgraves and Socall
A limitation to
this study was looking for a female subject to study. Being
unable to find a woman to be measured may have altered the study
and a different level could have been added. It would have been
interesting to see what the woman would have scored if she had
been homeless and dirty like subjects three and five, or being a
professional like subject four, John Forbes Nash, the Nobel
generalizability of an experiment is how well a causal
relationship can be spread across people, in different places at
different times. Given the test here, seeing the pictures, as
they appeared caused the students to view them as being
something that they may not be. Generalizability in this study
was limited to college students as apposed to generalizing all
people of any age or occupation.
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Piner, K.E., (1984). Adapting to the stigmatizing
label of mental
illness: Foregone but not forgotten.
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