Date of Award

8-2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Scott Eidelman

Second Committee Member

Shannon K. McCoy

Third Committee Member

Cynthia A. Erdley-Gardella

Abstract

Two studies were conducted to examine the effects of disclosing a visible or invisible stigma on interaction partners' interaction expectations, impressions of a stigmatized confederate, and interpersonal anxiety. In both studies, participants were led to believe that they were interacting with an individual who possessed a visible or invisible stigma. In Study 1, participants presumably interacted with a visibly or invisibly stigmatized confederate who either disclosed or did not disclose his stigma. In Study 2, participants believed they were interacting with a visibly or invisibly confederate who disclosed his stigma earlier or later in the course of an interaction. Findings from Study 1 provided support that disclosure, compared to non-disclosure, of a visible stigma leads to more positive interaction expectations and impressions of the stigmatized individual. Conversely, the disclosure, compared to non-disclosure, of an invisible stigma led to more negative or neutral interaction expectations and impressions of the stigmatized individual. Interaction expectations were found to at least partially mediate the effects of the Visibility by Disclosure interaction on likeability, closeness, and interpersonal anxiety. Findings from Study 2 provided support for the hypothesis that earlier, compared to later, disclosure of a visible stigma leads to more positive interaction expectations and impressions of the stigmatized individual, while the later, compared to earlier, disclosure of an invisible stigma appeared to lead to more positive interaction expectations and impressions of the confederate. Furthermore, psychological health at least partially mediated the effects of the Visibility by Timing interaction on interaction expectations, likeability, and reliability. Findings are discussed in light of previous stigma and personal disclosure research and implications of disclosure for stigmatized individuals are addressed.

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