Stereotype threat contributes to social difficulties in people with schizophrenia

This paper investigates the influence of stereotype threat on social interactions involving people with schizophrenia-related disorders. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia (N = 21) and schizoaffective disorder (N = 9) engaged in 3-minute interactions with two confederates, one of whom they believed knew of their diagnosis (stereotype threat) and one whom they believed did not (control). In reality, confederates were blind to condition in that they were told neither about diagnoses or partners beliefs. Participants perceptions of the interactions did not vary based on stereotype threat. However, confederates ratings of the interaction showed effects of stereotype threat. Based on confederates ratings, participants under stereotype threat were impaired in initiating conversations and in switching topics appropriately. Confederates also judge conversations occurring under stereotype threat to be less comfortable. These results suggest that people with schizophrenia might experience social difficulties arising, at least in part, from assumptions about others knowledge of their diagnoses. A belief that other individuals know of their membership in a stigmatized group can contribute to social unease and awkwardness.

Henry, J.D., von Hippel, C., & Shapiro, L. (2010). Stereotype threat contributes to social difficulties in people with schizophrenia. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49, 31-41.