Describing Persons With Disability: Salience of Disability, Gender, and Ethnicity

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Purpose:Most of the literature in social psychology on social categorization reveals the primacy of gender and ethnicity in person perception. The purpose of the current research was to examine the salience of visible disability (person in a wheelchair) compared with the salience of gender and ethnicity.Method:In two experiments, the authors compared descriptions of targets with or without disability (in a wheelchair or on a bike), female or male (Experiments 1 and 2), Black or White (Experiment 2).Results:Results supported the hypothesized salience of disability: Targets with disability are immediately described by disability, independent of gender and ethnicity, whereas targets without disability are primarily identified by gender and ethnicity.Conclusions:These results suggest that disability can be considered a superordinate social category.

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