Reducing Avoidance of Social Interaction with a Physically Disabled Person by Mentioning the Disability Following a Request for Aid1


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    The assistance of Diane Pollack and Jamie Tottman, who portrayed the role of the confederate, is gratefully acknowledged.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Judson Mills, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.


The effectiveness of strategies for reducing avoidance of social interaction with a physically disabled person was experimentally investigated. Female college students privately expressed their preference for social interaction before and after learning the other was a female in a wheelchair or nondisabled. The results provide evidence for the effectiveness of mentioning the disability following a request for aid related to the disability (the Request-mention Strategy). Change in preference for social interaction was more positive when the disabled person employed the Request-mention strategy than when she said nothing. Requesting aid without mentioning the disability was not found to be effective. A request for aid unrelated to the disability was clearly ineffective. The disabled person who said nothing was avoided, in comparison to when the same person was nondisabled. Favorability of impressions of the other, as measured by ratings of her characteristics, was not influenced by the experimental conditions.