Trait Attributions About College Students With a Physical Disability: Circumplex Analyses and Methodological Issues1


  • 1

    This study was funded by a grant from Fonds F.C. A.C. pour l'aide et le soutien a la recherche. Thanks are due to John G. Martos for his assistance with various stages of this study.


Trait attributions concerning able-bodied college students and those with a physical disability were investigated in two studies. In Study 1, 194 able-bodied students completed extensive adjective checklists in one of four experimental conditions: stimulus person physically disabled (wheelchair user) male, disabled female, able-bodied male, or able-bodied female college student. To avoid self-presentation biases, subjects completed checklists not in terms of their own views but in terms of commonly held stereotypes. Results showed that not only were fewer socially desirable and more undesirable traits attributed to students with a disability than to able-bodied students, but when tested for “sameness” vs. “oppositeness” using two circumplex models, traits attributed to students who have a disability were clearly the “opposite” of those attributed to able-bodied students. In Study 2, 115 students completed a trait checklist based on the findings of Study 1 with reference to one of the four stimulus persons. Although subjects reported their own views, the results were consistent with those of Study 1. It was also found that stereotyping in the socially desirable direction was related to stereotyping in the undesirable direction; both were related to lack of ease with students with a disability. Common stereotypes of wheelchair user students are listed and the implications of the findings for the design of programs to reduce prejudice and integrate students with a disability into academic life are discussed.