Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Psychology: Clinical-Counseling Psychology
Laura J Finan
Mental illness within the United States is fairly common; as of 2017 roughly 1 in 5 U.S. adults experienced a mental illness and 1 in 25 experienced a severe mental illness (NAMI, 2019). Despite these prevalence rates, there are many misconceptions about individuals with a mental illness. For example individuals with mental illness are perceived as dangerous (Angermeyer & Matschinger, 2003; Marie & Miles, 2008), unpredictable (Magliano et al., 2004; Wu et al., 2020), and aggressive (Adewuya & Makanjuola, 2008; Ozmen et al., 2004), despite research that suggests they are not more likely to be violent and/or dangerous (Hochstedler Steury, 1993; Monahan et al., 2017). These negative perceptions can lead to higher unemployment rates among individuals with mental illness, social rejection from the public, and decreased help-seeking behaviors (Krupa et al., 2009). Although research has explored the roles of environmental (Stuart & Arboleda-Flórez, 2012), education (Crowe & Averett, 2015), and personal experience (Corrigan et al., 2001) in understanding the public’s perception of this population, little is known about how attributes ascribed to these individuals affects perceptions of dangerousness. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate how the personal attributes of perceived unpredictability and aggression influence the relationship between perceptions of mental illness and dangerousness for the disorders of schizophrenia and substance use disorder. More specifically, this study aimed to measure: 1) whether individuals could accurately perceive symptoms of mental illness; 2) whether unpredictability and aggressiveness mediated the relationship between mental illness and dangerousness; and 3) whether individuals with schizophrenia are perceived as more unpredictable and aggressive as well as if individuals desired more social distance from them. Results supported the hypothesis that participants would be able to accurately perceive a mental illness as well as the hypothesis that participants would rate individuals with schizophrenia as more unpredictable and aggressive. However, results did not support the hypothesis that unpredictability and aggressiveness mediate the relationship between perceptions of mental illness and dangerousness, nor did they support the hypothesis that participants would desire more social distance from individuals with schizophrenia. Such findings may improve previously ineffective anti-stigma efforts, decrease the public’s desired social distance from individuals with mental illness, and, overall, improve the quality of life for individuals with mental illness.
Neal, Sydni Lee, "Dangerous or Misunderstood?: Attributes Ascribed to Individuals With Mental Illness and Their Effects on Perceived Dangerousness" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 1456.