American Sociological Association

Influence and Social Distance Consequences across Categories of Race and Mental Illness

This paper describes an experimental study (N = 184) that investigated influence and social distance consequences of a number of attributes in interpersonal interactions. The attributes included race, education, panic disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Participants interacted with fictitious partners whom they believed were real and who represented the attributes studied. Participants had opportunities to be influenced by and seek distance from their interaction partners. Results showed that low educational attainment and schizophrenia significantly reduced the influence of partners. Participants sought significantly more social distance from partners who were African American and partners with depression or schizophrenia than other partners. The results are noteworthy in (1) finding that race did not affect influence in the sample but did affect social distance; (2) showing that different mental illness labels led to different reactions, with schizophrenia leading to particularly strong negative reactions; and (3) demonstrating these effects behaviorally in an interactional setting.


Jeffrey W. Lucas and Jo C. Phelan





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