Disability and Assistance Dog Implicit Association Test: A Novel IAT


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Abstract

Objective:Individuals with disabilities often face stigma and negative social interactions. Human–animal interaction literature suggests that an individual paired with an animal will be perceived differently than an individual alone. Although people with disabilities report increases in social interactions when with assistance dogs, the reasons for this remain unclear. One possibility is that attitudes toward people with disabilities are altered by the presence of assistance dogs, thus affecting the social behaviors of the perceiver. This study examines whether implicit attitudes toward individuals with disabilities differ in the presence of an assistance dog.Method:College students (N = 244) completed the Attitudes of Adults to Dogs scale, an item assessing dog ownership, and the Disabilities and Assistance Dog Implicit Association Test (IAT).Results:A 1-sample t test demonstrated a significant IAT effect, t(240) = 3.62, p < .001, with a positive implicit bias observed toward an individual with a disability when paired with an assistance dog over the individual alone. White individuals were more likely than Black individuals to hold positive implicit attitudes toward an individual with a disability paired with a dog, F(2, 238) = 3.18, p = .04. There were no significant differences in IAT D scores based on gender or dog ownership.Implications:This study extends previous research regarding social interactions for individuals with disabilities who are paired with assistance dogs. Increases in positive implicit attitudes toward an individual with a disability paired with a dog may explain these changes in social interactions. Dogs may serve as a social lubricant, increasing positive social interactions for individuals with disabilities.

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