Imagined contact and mental illness stigma in an Asian context: Bolstering the effect and examining the impact of factual information

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Imagined contact can be effective at reducing social stigma. However, the effect may depend on the strength of the stigma held. We tested the robustness of imagined contact in an Asian setting where stigmatization of mental illness is stronger than in Western countries. In Experiment 1 (n = 167) with five conditions, only an enhanced version of positive imagined contact was able to decrease stigma towards people with schizophrenia through decreasing intergroup anxiety. Given the potential discrepancy between imaginations and reality about experiences with stigmatized groups, in Experiment 2 (n = 121), we tested the hypothesis that after presenting participants with factual information about a mental illness group, imagined contact might backfire, resulting in more negative perceptions. However, enhanced imagined contact alongside factual message about schizophrenia did not increase stigma. The backfiring hypothesis was therefore not supported. Nevertheless, providing realistic information did negate the positive effects of enhanced imagined contact on stigma reduction. In both experiments, we also showed that intergroup anxiety mediated the effect of enhanced imagined contact on various measures of stigma.

Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology
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Journal Article
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