Master's Theses

Date of Award

Summer 1981

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Thomas T. Jackson


This study was designed to assess whether a written demythologizing handout, which points out myths about mental patients and the medical model, would affect students' attitudes toward specific behavioral descriptions. Each subject responded to one of six possible behavioral descriptions that was based on two independent variables. The first independent variable was Past Hospitalization, which had two levels, (a) the label "ex-mental patient" (experimental group) and (b) no attached label (control group). The second independent variable was Behavioral Descriptions which had three levels; (a) a behavioral description of a Paranoid Schizophrenic, (b) a description of a Depressed Neurotic, and (c) a description of a "normal" person. The subjects were volunteers from an undergraduate introductory psychology course at Fort Hays State University who were randomly assigned to one of the six previously mentioned behavioral descriptions. There were 34 males and 28 females. The subjects' attitudes towards the behavioral descriptions were measured by a Semantic Differential and an Association Scale before and after they read the demythologizing material. It was expected that the behavioral descriptions with the person labeled an ex-mental patient would be rejected more on the pre-test (before reading the demythologizing material) than the same description not having the ex-mental patient label. It was also expected that on the post-test (after reading the demythologizing material) the subjects would make more positive attributions toward and be more willing to associate with ex-mental patients than they were on the pre-test. Although the ex-mental patient groups (experimental groups) were rejected more than the groups where no label was attached (control groups), on the pre-test the difference did not reach conventional significance levels. Also, there were no significant differences between the experimental group and the control group on change scores after reading the demythologizing material. On the Association Scale, there was significant positive change in the subjects ' willingness to associate with the person described in a particular behavioral description. This positive change occurred for both the experimental and control groups, especially for the descriptions of the Paranoid Schizophrenic. Although neither of the hypotheses of this study were supported there was positive change for all the groups except the Normal non-mental patient group after reading the demythologizing material. A plausible explanation that is discussed in this study is that the subjects in the Paranoid Schizophrenic and Depressed Neurotic non-mental patient groups assumed their descriptions were of people who would be diagnosed mentally ill. If this were the case there would be five experimental groups and only one control group, the Normal non-mental patient group. The results of this study indicate that the demythologizing approach to mental illness is effective in changing college students' attitudes towards ex-mental patients and deviant behavior.


Copyright 1981 Jack Selburg


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