Effects of biological determinist and interactionist causal explanations on undergraduate students' stigma of children with attention deficits hyperactivity disorders: An experimental investigation

Boby Ho‐Hong Ching, Terrence Cheok In Ma
Published Online:
13 Jan 2021

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This experimental study examined the effects of biological explanations on individuals' stigma against children with ADHD. We randomly assigned 174 undergraduate students to read one of the three fictitious articles: the first article focused on the determining role of biology in affecting children's ADHD symptoms (biological determinist), the second article highlighted the interplay between biological and environmental factors (interactionist), and the third article was unrelated to ADHD (control). Analyses of variance showed that participants who read the biological determinist message, relative to the control group, were (a) less likely to blame the children for their problems, but (b) more likely to endorse fixed beliefs about the nature of ADHD (entity beliefs). Thus, the overall direct effect of biological determinist message on desire for social distance was not significant. By contrast, participants who read the interactionist message showed (a) less blame attribution and (b) lower levels of entity beliefs, which contributed to less desire for social distance. These findings suggest that (a) presenting biological information regarding ADHD in a deterministic way may not be an effective way to reduce stigma, whereas (b) providing an interactionist account of ADHD may undermine the potential negative effect of an exclusively biological explanation.

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