The Stigma Hypothesis: The Sex Variable in Face to Face Interactions with the Physically Disabled

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The purpose of this study was to investigate systematically effects of the sex variable in face-to-face interactions with handicapped and nonhandicapped interviewers. Subjects were 80 introductory psychology students (40 males and 40 females). Each of eight groups served in one of four interview conditions: (1) a same sex handicapped interviewer, (2) an opposite sex handicapped interviewer, (3) a same sex nonhandicapped interviewer, and (4) an opposite sex nonhandicapped interviewer. The experimenters were both actual amputees who simply wore their prostheses in the nonhandicapped condition. A 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design (male and female experimenters; male and female subjects; and handicapped and nonhandicapped conditions) was used for analysis. A total of 14 separate measures were taken during a brief interview. The interview consisted of 3 open-ended questions, 12 specific statements rated on a 1-7 scale, and a form indicating willingness to help with further interviews. The 12 specific statements covered 4 topics which were felt to represent areas which might cause normals to feel inhibited in the presence of a physically handicapped individual. These topics included sex, religion, sports, and social activities. The only major finding was that subjects had significantly shorter interviews in the handicap condition than the nonhandicap condition. No other significant differences between the handicap-nonhandicap conditions were found. Contrary to expectations, there were no significant interactions between sex of experimenter, sex of subjects, and handicap conditions.

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