The Relationship Between Experience and Attitudes Concerning Epilepsy1

Authors

  • Claudia Lampman

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Alaska, Anchorage
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Claudia Lampman, Department of Psychology, University of Alaska, Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508-8224.
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  • 1

    This research represents part of the author's doctoral dissertation in Applied Social Psychology at Loyola University of Chicago. This study was conducted with the support of a Behavioral Sciences Fellowship from the Epilepsy Foundation of America awarded to the author.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Claudia Lampman, Department of Psychology, University of Alaska, Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508-8224.

Abstract

Research indicates that epilepsy is a misunderstood and stigmatizing disorder. The present study examined whether various levels and types of experience with epilepsy are related to attitudes about the disorder. It was hypothesized that certain types of direct experience with epilepsy (e.g., knowing people with epilepsy) are related to positive attitudes about the disorder, whereas other types of direct experience (e.g., witnessing seizures) are related to negative beliefs. As predicted, data from telephone interviews with 271 subjects indicate that individuals knowing someone with epilepsy held significantly more accepting attitudes than respondents who had never known an epileptic. The findings also suggest that witnessing epileptic seizures is an emotionally charged event, and, in the absence of other types of experience, this emotional impact might have a negative effect on attitudes toward people with epilepsy. The findings from this study have implications for the development of educational programs aimed at the general public, medical personnel, and people with epilepsy.

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