School of Behavioral Sciences
Psychiatry and Psychology
Anderson, Gianna, "College Student Perceptions of Varying Disability Types: Does Contact Experience Matter?" (2019). Senior Honors Theses. 891.
Studies exploring prejudices between groups have suggested that contact is related to attitudes. This relationship has been studied in the context of attitudes toward people with disabilities and has yielded inconsistent results. Other variables, such as gender, type of relationship, and the type of disability, have been studied in conjunction with and distinct from the contact variable. The present study, conducted among college students, investigated if the contact experience or the exposure to a specific type of disability in a vignette individually were associated with the attitude variable of social distance, as well as if there was an interaction between the two independent variables. Contact experience did not significantly predict scores on the social distance measure; however, type of disability was a significant predictor of undergraduate students’ social distance attitudes. Specifically, physical disability predicted significantly lower scores of social distance than intellectual disability, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The results of this research were consistent with prior studies measuring similar variables, prompting a need for further research on the role of contact experience and disability type in forming prejudices toward people with disabilities. As type of disability seems to play a significant role in attitudes toward people with disabilities, greater efforts should be directed towards educating students and faculty on non-physical disability types.