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Br J Clin Psychol. 2010 Mar;49(Pt 1):31-41. doi: 10.1348/014466509X421963. Epub 2009 Mar 18.

Stereotype threat contributes to social difficulties in people with schizophrenia.

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  • 1University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.



The experience of stereotype threat (where the prospect of conforming to a stereotype, or of being treated in terms of it, becomes self-threatening) affects members of social groups about whom devaluing stereotypes exist. Although a widely endorsed stereotype of schizophrenia concerns social skill impairment, it is unclear whether the experience of stereotype threat impacts social functioning in this group. The purpose of the present study was to test whether people with schizophrenia would perform more poorly in a social setting in which they felt stereotyped as mentally ill.


Thirty individuals with schizophrenia engaged in conversations with two confederates, one of whom they were told knew nothing about them (control conversation), and the other of whom they were told had been informed of their diagnosis (stereotype threat conversation). In reality, neither confederate had been informed of participants' mental health status.


Although participants with schizophrenia did not perceive any differences in their own social behaviour across the two conditions, their social skill was rated by the confederates as poorer in the stereotype threat conversation on three out of the six measures used.


These results suggest that social skill difficulties in people with schizophrenia may be exacerbated by their awareness that others know of their diagnosis. These findings have implications for disclosure of mental health status.

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