Sympathy, Self-Consciousness, and Reactions to the Stigmatized1


  • 1

    The research reported in Experiment I was supported by a grant to Richard Schulz from the National Institute of Aging (AG-00525). The research reported in Experiment II was supported by grants to David C. Glass and Irwin Katz from the National Science Foundation (GS-37976X and GS-37977X) and from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. The authors are gateful to G. I. Wishnick for her help in collecting data for Experiment I.


Reactions toward the stigmatized were studied in two experiments. Subjects in both studies evaluated a target person on the basis of personal information contained in a transcript of a bogus interview. The target person was portrayed in either a favorable or an unfavorable manner and either was or was not a member of a stigmatized group. In Experiment I the target person was evaluated more positively when he was described as being old (75 years of age) than when he was described as being young (23 years of age). In Experiment II subjects evaluated a handicapped target more favorably than a nonstigmatized target. This “sympathy” effect was strongest among persons high in private self-consciousness (disposition to attend to one's thoughts, feelings, and motives). The methodological and practical implications of these results are discussed.